Humanity has always looked to the stars and wondered…
There has always been a deep fascination within us. A desire to look for answers in the skies above us, rather than in the oceans and the earth below us. Across all societies, cultures, and religions, we have looked to the stars and we have found light, patterns, stories, navigational tools, divine intervention and, above all, a sense of deep wonder.
It’s no surprise that the stars, in all their mysterious wonder, have found their way into the modern era. The world seems to be fascinated by the stars and by astrology lately. Astrology has become a meme, spreading across the internet like wildfire. The phrase “Mercury retrograde” was trending on Twitter recently. Astrology apps are now a multi-million dollar business. Professional astrologers often amass hundreds of thousands of followers, and find themselves securing lucrative brand deals as a result. Online and high street shops retailers alike are releasing astrology themed outfits and homeware. You can be as sceptical as you want, you can scoff and roll your eyes to your heart’s desire, but it is undeniable that Astrology is enjoying a “moment” in the wider cultural zeitgeist.
This isn’t the first time that astrology has seen an upsurge in popularity over the decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, astrology and the wider spiritualist movement underwent a similar spike in popularity. Those were the years when the shadow of the atomic apocalypse loomed large, when societal expectations were being overturned, when turbulence and change hid around every corner. The 1910s and 1920s represented a similar trend, as relatives and friends of those who lost their lives over the course of WW1 and the following Spanish flu pandemic tried to make sense of their grief, they often turned to mediums, astrologers, and spiritualists for answers.
Is it any surprise that this pattern seems to be repeating itself in the 2020s? In an era when nothing makes sense, when political leaders cannot be trusted, and when the entire global order is being questioned – it makes sense to turn to non-traditional sources for guidance. Is it any surprise that, as the world seems to burn around us, we are once again searching for spiritual answers to earthly problems?
Perhaps the end of organised religion’s vice-like grip on much of the Western world is also responsible for the rise in astrology’s popularity. Decades of scandal, of salacious cover-ups and of a wider, deep sense of disdain for anyone outside of an in-group seem to have turned younger generations away from religion in their droves. According to a 2017 Pew research centre poll, a third of Gen Z and a third of all millennials in the United States have no religion at all. In the UK, well over half of all Gen Z surveyed said they had no religion at all. However, having no religion does not necessarily correlate with a lack of spirituality, something Gen Z seems to have adapted in droves – if the number of TikToks about manifestation, meditation, crystals and witchcraft on my own FYP page is anything to go by! Perhaps, the recent interest in astrology has only been hastened by a desire to fill the gap left by wider, organised religion?
There is a certain beauty to knowing the exact positions the stars were in at the moment of your birth. I entered the time, date and location of my birth into an astrology app while writing this article. The results were surprisingly complimentary. Apparently, I am a Virgo sun, with Sagittarius Moon and Rising. Mars, Mercury and Venus were all in Leo when I was born, making me an “earth sign, with heavy fire influences”. Apparently, that makes me “warm, optimistic, independent, free-spirited, forward-looking and hard-working”. I can also be “emotional, restless, blunt, overly critical, and self-centred”. I’m unconvinced on the accuracy of these statements. They do, nonetheless, provide useful ways for me to describe myself – something I’ve always struggled to do. Perhaps, astrology is the solution to the dreaded “describe yourself” question that has tripped me, and countless others, up in countless job interviews? I might just transplant some of those positive adjectives into a cover letter someday.
According to my newly downloaded astrology app, at the time of writing, Mercury is in retrograde, the sun is in Gemini, and the moon is in Taurus. The app tells me that now is a good time to think independently and creatively, but that I might encounter certain pressures in spiritual and social areas of my life. I should check my sources, write a to-do list, and focus on seeing the bigger picture. I should avoid cherry-picking information, making overstatements, and performing for attention. Solid advice, regardless of whether or not the stars actually influenced it.
I don’t believe that the stars hold the key to my destiny, nor do I believe they are responsible for certain aspects of my personality. Yet, I still find comfort and guidance in those statements. Maybe comfort and guidance is all that truly matters and is all that we need in these difficult times. Even the most sceptical and scientific people tend to avoid slandering religion out of a sense of common respect and decency – at the very least. Why shouldn’t we extend that respect to astrology and spiritualism?
[Luisa Barclay – she/her]
[Photo credits: Enric Cruz López]