There are few things in this life that have had the staying power — except for maybe the wheel, pyramids, or even ice cream (who would have thought, our love of the cold stuff has been around since ancient times) — than that of astrology.
But is it pseudoscience or nonsense? Considering the appetite the public has had throughout the years, the truth must lie somewhere in between, even if most of us consider our weekly horoscope to be as reliable as the election polls. The mystical services industry has increased by two percent in recent times, becoming a $2 billion industry. Investors are keeping up with burgeoning demand by capitalizing on their tech consumers: millennials and Gen Z’s, who have the stars in their eyes.
Astrologer Richard H. Naylor wowed the Brits with the first-ever newspaper horoscope for the royal baby, Princess Margaret, back in 1915. The popularity of his reading convinced the editors of Britain’s Sunday Express to run a weekly horoscope, and it wasn’t long before other tabloids took notice.
You know the drill: Be wary of an old acquaintance, go with the flow, or new romance will blossom this week. But wild generalizations aside, newspaper horoscopes have been providing vague guidance to their readers with stamina.
The elusive personalized birth chart has only remained accessible via professional stargazers at a premium price — that is, if you were able to find a stargazer and knew what time of the day you were born (Hi Mum!).
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I first downloaded the Co-Star app after a recommendation from a broken-hearted friend. I was excited, as this app promised the personalized birth chart that I had forever been curious about. A few years back, when I was living in midtown Manhattan, my rent-controlled apartment was bookended by three addled old stargazers who seemed as though they had not seen the sun since the 1970s. Being a talkative young Australian, horrified by a mouse infestation in the building, I became friendly with my neighbors — and one promised to do my chart.
Sadly for me, the rodent problem forced me out of the apartment before I was able to receive my personalized birth chart — until now, when I downloaded the Co-Star app. Smoother than I anticipated, the hardest part of using Co-Star was finding information on the exact time I was born. My screen populated a visual chart of my signs, then broke it down into specific — and scarily accurate — sub-section descriptions of each sign.
I wasn’t surprised to learn my sun sign was in Sagittarius. I am a true Sag after all, and it felt peaceful to learn that my moon sign was in Aries; Aries and I always get along. It was, however, a small surprise when I saw my ascendant sign (the mask we wear) was in Gemini, but of course, it made sense when I read the breakdown. Star signs generally do make sense if we squint our eyes.
At times, it may feel like Co-Star is trolling its users with daily notifications, with users sharing their downright hilarious notes on Twitter as memes.
“Change your hair today.” This was my daily notification from Co-Star last week. Yes, it is as sassy as it sounds, which is why so many people share their unabashed notifications on social media, presumably whilst smirking.
Yesterday, I was strongly advised to “not deal with people who critique me,” which, as a writer, is hard to do. Today, “Handle your sh*t” left me incensed. No matter; it seems this straight-shooting app is talking to the right consumers.
The robust popularity of star sign horoscopes show that millennials and baby boomers alike show strong favor to astrology. Yet, perhaps the most surprising thing is how astrology has infiltrated Generation Z. As consumers, Gen Z is notoriously skeptical of religion, brands, and companies, often favoring ideology and social impacts they are able to control themselves. Somehow, though, astrology and horoscopes have gotten through their pragmatic net.
New York astrologer Patti Clark believes Gen Z is similar to the queer community in the way they are accepting astrology.
“They are both [communities] open to a lot of things that aren’t as dogmatic as religion,” she says.
So, why are the queer community and astrology so interlinked?
“Everyone is whatever, and it doesn’t matter,” says Patti. “[The queer community] is generally more open and diverse, so therefore more open to discover.”
At worst, people assume narcissism is the draw-card to the personalized horoscopes, but for me, it is a form of optimism in a crowded and busy world. Mulling over my zodiac sign provides a sense of direction, a feeling that things are going to get better. The growing number of people “believing” in astrology stands in stark contrast to the decline of religion. According to the 2011 census, Australians with “no religion” account for 29.6 percent of the population — an increase of 7.8 percent since the 2011 census.
Whether you believe in the influence of the stars on our personality and lives or not, in today’s society you are not pressed to find people casually — or seriously — joke about Mercury Retrograde wrecking chaos on their lives. (Approximately four times per year, the planet Mercury speeds its orbit past Earth and then slows down, creating an illusion to appear as if it’s going backwards.)
Sanctuary App provides on-demand readings, almost like a form of therapy, available at your fingertips. With said fingertips already glued to your phones, making these apps so accessible, their popularity will continue to rise with ease. The apps themselves are good for the industry, according to Patti. “I’m into anyone knowing their chart; I love it,” she says.
On a deeper level than I’ve found with Co-Star, Patti was able to provide a holistic view of how my chart read. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the app’s daily snapshots, she managed to help me leave our conversation with a fuller sense of being and a greater understanding of my chart.
Ultimately, it seems to me that whilst technology is helping the astrology industry grow, there is no better method than the human touch.
The question is whether we’re able to determine any relevance after reading our horoscope; is it a placebo type effect or is there is any truth in our stars? Does it matter either way if the mystical market is not causing any harm, or, like social media, will this be an environment that will require regulation?
With a growing portion of the country choosing to be agnostic to any religious view, a vacancy for guiding faith has opened. Global crises, such as climate change and pandemics, make for an uncertain world. Does astrology have the power to slide into this space where people need or are seeking guidance? For me, it seems horoscopes do have the power to become a trusted source of wisdom — a guiding star if you will — to help communities feel connected to a higher spiritual plane.
For me, the English indie band The XX captures it nicely with their poignant lyric, “The stars and the charts and the cards signs make sense only when we want them to.”