What’s Your Sign?
It’s no secret that astrology is just as polarizing as it is popular, and if you’re a 20-something, it’s a safe bet that you either A) check your horoscope on a daily basis, or B) consider zodiac charts comical. But in order to decide which side of the spectrum you actually fall on, you first have to understand how it works.
The (very) basic premise is that the sun, moon, planets, and constellations have some type of effect on us as people as well as the world around us. Using a predetermined set of rules about their positions and movements, we can, it’s said, attempt to understand our own personality and compulsions and (to an extent) predict the behavior of others. Based on that basic description, it’s understandable why so many are skeptical.
To my point: the majority of skeptics actually don’t know much about astrology past their sun sign, which is essentially your “main sign” and what most online daily horoscopes are based on. There is, however, a reason for the wide appeal of sun sign horoscopes in the media.
According to Jakeastrology in a 2018 Cosmopolitan interview, the sun sign in astrology represents the foundation of who you are as a person, which is why a lot of people easily relate to it. This is very limiting, as it doesn’t take into account any of the other unique placements people have in their chart.
All planets and houses need to be analyzed for a full and accurate reading, including your moon, dealing more with your emotions, and your rising sign, dealing more with the person you tend to show the world. (Pro tip: there are tons of fun new apps out there they can help you deep-dive into your chart, as well as explain each of your houses in detail! Co-Star is my go-to.) These separate signs depend on location and exact time of birth, allowing for a much bigger picture.
It’s Written In The Stars
Let’s get this out of the way: The sky does not control you; you control you. Therefore, if you’re looking for this article (or astrology in general…) to validate your bad behavior… move on.
So why has astrology been such a phenomenon for so long?
Let’s talk about renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung. Ever wondered who invented the idea of zodiac compatibility? Yeah, you can blame this guy for convincing you not to ask out your 8th grade crush because he was an Aries.
Jung wrote about the topic of astrology in his work on synchronicity, ‘a causal connecting principle’ binding the experiences of all conscious beings together through meaning, rather than cause-and-effect.
Sounds a little too ideal, right? Let me explain: Jung believed zodiac charts were deeply embedded in human experience, and the signs create meaningful coincidences in the absence of any obvious influence.
Although astrology may not be 100 percent proven in the scientific community, one’s individual signs stand as pillars, each representing different aspects of the human personality that encourage great increases for empathy, internal reflection and self-discovery, be them scientifically-sound or not.
To build on that, if you’re someone that deep-dives into your chart and the charts of others, you really have no choice but to understand many layers and dynamics of the personality.
Knowing that, for example, a mercury retrograde may deeply affect your best friend’s moon sign (causing issues in communication) and Jupiter sign (causing issues in social life) requires you to really see the people around you as multi-dimensional beings, regularly acknowledging that others experience these troubles regularly and, in turn, it’s normal that you do, too.
Your self-talk begins to shift, and you are more in tune with all facets of the personality. There is real validity to astrology as a self-discovery tool, the signs reflecting archetypes of our collective consciousness.
And with that, it’s time to play devil’s advocate.
The most common way astrology is explained in psychological terms is The Barnum Effect, which is a tendency for an individual to believe vague or “barnum” statements when told it applies specifically to themselves or a group they belong to. (I’m such a Libra.)
So, sometimes a sort of magical thinking causes us to superimpose our life experiences and personality traits, twisting them into a shape that allows us to fit a square into a circle.
However, I will take this time to remind you that this theory is also based on sun-sign focus, and doesn’t take into account that a full astrology chart highlights the many pillars of personality and human tendency.
A Higher Power
Millennials and Gen Zers are undoubtedly the least religious generations yet, but that doesn’t mean that we are all hopeless pessimists who have given up on finding meaning in life.
I would actually argue the opposite.
From what I’ve seen and read, so many of us turn away from religion because we actually crave meaning, we just also happen to equally crave personalization, and it is that personalization that could explain why millennials are turning to astrology over something more structured and authoritarian, like religion.
Dr. Kim Lamana Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at DeVry University, shed some additional light on this for me: “People, especially younger generations, are connected to their zodiac signs because it gives them a sense of identity, helping them to define who they are as individuals. It also gives them a sense of control over their day to day lives as it gives them a feeling that they can predict what will happen in the future, thus reducing anxiety.”
This is not an abandonment of religion, but rather a spiritual shift. People, inherently, want to believe something, and are just feeling more comfortable expressing what somethings work for them, specifically.
And let’s not forget, astrology has been around for thousands of years. In fact, Babylonian astrologers were considered scientists in their own time, credited with being the first to notice that the stars and planets moved in patterns.
Once they realized that these movements would have a tendency to connect with life events on earth (like the moon moving with the tides and, supposedly, women’s menstrual cycles, which you can read a bit more about in this study.) they began documenting and naming them.
Though the Babylonians are by no means widely considered scientists by today’s standards, the patterns, records and mathematics that are credited to their time (and modified by the Greeks) are still units of measurement and study that we use today.
These ancient people strived to understand the stars, moons, and planets better in order to make sense of what was happening on earth. Soon, astrology would grow parallel with science, though they would never fully intersect, and the Greek new-and-improved 12 western zodiac sun signs would be born. (Named, famously, after constellations.)
To The Moon And Back
The one thing we can gather from this range of psychological opinions? Astrology means something different to everyone, and true significance lies in what it symbolizes to each individual. For me, astrology poses as a kind of blueprint of self-awareness and emotional balance to guide me (told you I’m a Libra,) and is a tool for self-empowerment, self-awareness, and empathy.
Since birth, aren’t we constantly being told fairytales and fables to help us understand our realities? These stories are fictional, but each and every one sheds a light on a certain solid truth in our lives.
Instead of being negative, try viewing astrology the same way.
The validation an individual draws from this shouldn’t be written off as trivial and is truly unparalleled. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether the planets influence your experience directly or provide you with a new perspective on complicated aspects of your personality. Practicing astrology can spark self-awareness, arguably one of the most important tools an individual can have, and the backbone of ethics.
As long as it doesn’t give directions and instructions into how to proceed with, for example, an illness or medical treatment, just lay off. Because ultimately, astrology is really about direction, more so than anything else. When we’re looking to the sky, we are really looking within and, in a world filled with negativity, you can’t beat a harmless way to understand and find peace with yourself and the world around you.