I am sure it comes as no surprise to hear that Astrology is in the throes of a renaissance, with social media apps like TikTok and Instagram fuelling its revival amongst young women especially.
Astrology has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, once considered a niche occult attraction for new wave hippy typecasts, it has now earned its status as a mainstay in popular culture.
Nowadays references to sun signs are ubiquitous and astrological parlance has become conventional. It is customary to be asked your sun sign by new acquaintances and bad days are no longer just bad days, they are now evident of mercury in retrograde.
This remarkable surge in popularity has not been seen since the peak of the New Age Movement in the 1970’s, so what exactly is behind this remarkable comeback? First, we must examine its origins.
To put it as simply as possible, astrology is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies which are interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and terrestrial events.
Astrologers believe that the sign the sun was in at the time of your birth indicates your basic nature and predisposes you to use certain strategies in dealing with life situations. Its practice dates to the Babylonian civilisation in the third millennium BCE and it was considered a scholarly tradition up until the 18th century.
As a self-professed Astrology enthusiast that has admittedly paid handsomely for a natal chart reading by a renowned astrologist in Seattle, astrology has offered me a lens for self-discovery and understanding.
My curiosity in astrology was sparked after I began living with an old flatmate who happened to be a firm believer in the ancient practice.
Like most Indians, Vinidra would consult her chart in times of uncertainty and confusion and routinely checked in with her family’s astrologist when faced with difficult decisions. Her brother’s pre-arranged marriage was orchestrated on the basis of zodiac chemistry.
I was fascinated by the fact that an individual who exemplified logic and reason (she is a PHD student in stem cell biology after all) could on the other hand invest in a belief system that is widely referred to as a pseudoscience. I sought to understand its puzzling appeal.
And let me tell you, the statistics speak for themselves. A 2014 study conducted by the National Science Foundation in the US revealed that scepticism around astrology was decreasing, with more than half of 18-24-year-olds surveyed attesting to a belief that astrology is a scientific tradition.
According to data analysis group WGSN, 62% of ‘Gen Z’ and 63% of Millennials say their zodiac sign accurately reflects their personality.
Google trends have documented a doubling of online interest in horoscopes since 2010 and CO-STAR, the mobile app which provides individualised daily horoscopes for its users has had over 27 million downloads since its inception. Why has this thousands of years old practice recaptured the zeitgeist despite its lack of scientific basis?
Sociologists believe that Astrology’s rise can be linked to the mounting insecurities associated with modernity. We are living in unpredictable times marked by destabilising forces. Security has become increasingly lucrative, and anxieties are at an apex.
Millennials and Gen Z alike are facing ever competitive job markets with zero-hour contracts, housing crises resulting in delayed nest departures and a volatile geopolitical landscape is at play. With all this in mind, it is therefore reasonable to look for answers amidst perpetual uncertainty and astrology is increasing being considered a viable source for them.
Whilst the pseudoscience is by no means a crystal ball into the future, it enables believers to regain a semblance of control and order in their lives amongst unfurling chaos which in turn, greatly relieves anxiety around the hurdles of modern life.
Astrology is unique in its relatively diverse range of claims; magic, art, science, a tool for psychoanalysis, a means of divination, its function varies from person to person and this versatility adds to the allure.
Humans have long attempted to find meaning behind the mundane and Astrology can be seen as another attempt to understand the ‘powers that be’. However, destiny is a polarising concept which divides peoples into two camps generally, ardent proponents of ‘everything happens for a reason’ and those that firmly advocate that ‘life is what you make it’. There are those that believe their lives are at the mercy of the mysterious workings of the universe, and those that categorically refute the notion of any form of predestination.
Statistically speaking, women are much more inclined to believe in the cosmic sway of the universe. This corroborates research which claims that 90% of astrology’s audience identifies as women. Why are women more susceptible to the trappings of astrology? Are we simply more gullible? I believe it’s due to the lack of representation in more traditional belief systems, including organised religion which are unquestioningly male centric.
Speaking of religion, astrology’s growth has paralleled organised religion’s continuing demise, especially amongst young people. Astrology provides a more flexible and inclusive alternative to traditional religions like Christianity which are typically more rigid and prescriptive in their teachings, without scrimping on the spiritual offerings.
Astrology allows its participants to opt in on an a la carte basis and its purpose varies depending on one’s degree of belief. Some people buy into it wholesale, consulting their horoscopes and natal chart when faced with difficult decisions, some use it as a frame of reference to enable better self-reflection whilst others use it as amusing subject matter at dinner parties. This freedom of choice is refreshing and reflective of our more liberal minded society on a whole.
Technology and social media are also responsible for the thriving astrology industry as it has helped democratise the belief system by opening up the channels of exposure and communication. A whole meme culture has been born from it, witty references to sun signs have become popular captions for virtual content and astrology theme skits have become viral sensations.
Whether astrology will continue to grow in popularity in the western world remains to be seen, however as social media continues to propel astrology themed content and anxiety continues to dominate modern life, astrology’s renaissance seems like it’s here to stay.