Astrology Doesn’t Have to Be Real to Be Helpful

astrology collage

Leos tend to be interested in astrology, I’ve found, which makes sense, given our reputation for self-obsession. My own interest was first piqued in 2017, when an editor asked me to write weekly horoscope recaps. I would read several major weekly horoscopes, and then pull the important parts and write them up free of the sometimes overly abstract, mystical language that comes with traditional astrology writing. I simultaneously loved the assignment and wanted to die every time I had to do it; it took hours and hours, and the horoscopes I recapped were repetitive and tedious. I found that looking at transits and aspects on Astro Seek or reading birth charts on Astro-Charts was significantly more interesting to me than weekly or daily predictions for each sign, and I eventually abandoned my weekly horoscope binge-and-purge in favor of writing my own.

Once I became proficient in the language of astrology, I began to see it everywhere, like I’d put on beer goggles that revealed cosmic truths. I have a natural tendency to avoid conflict, which I couldn’t articulate honestly until learned about my Libra Mars. My placements could explain my desire to stay home or go out, my shyness and my desire to connect. Many things were true at once because of the pull of various planets; my Saturn in Pisces telling me to lay in bed all day, and my Jupiter in Sagittarius begging me to go visit a museum. My coworkers and I got along so well because we were all fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), meaning we were all hard workers who liked a certain amount of independence.

Ariana Grande has a Capricorn rising and Venus in Taurus, two placements that might cause someone to equate happiness with Louboutins.

Because of astrology, my intake of pop culture changed completely, too—I couldn’t stop looking at celebrity charts on Astrotheme and feeling satisfied by how perfectly Jake Gyllenhaal’s Sagittarius Sun and Mercury explain his goofy Instagram account for his cat. The song “7 rings” made a lot more sense to me once I found out Ariana Grande has a Capricorn rising and Venus in Taurus, two placements that might cause someone to equate happiness with Louboutins.

The Total Astro Takeover wasn’t all my fault: It feels as though the topic is inescapable, culturally, right now. Everyone tweets about their Co—Star notifications, Chani Nicholas makes us all Spotify playlists, and Shailene Woodley makes birth charts for the characters that she plays. Of course, technology is partially responsible—information about astrology is more accessible than ever, and new Gen-Z astrologers moderate meme accounts on Instagram, creating astro content in the most bite-sized form possible.

The sudden interest in astrology seems connected to the pressure we feel to optimize ourselves.

For those of us who put zodiac bingo memes on our IG stories and are otherwise extremely online, the sudden interest in astrology seems connected to the pressure we feel to optimize ourselves, a pressure that’s beautifully articulated in Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror. In her essay “Always Be Optimizing,” Tolentino writes that young people are simultaneously experiencing intense precarity and increasingly unhinged marketing about self-improvement. Lean In and #GIRLBOSS pop feminism tell us that we are responsible for stepping up and facilitating our own success. At its worst, using astrology to look inward is perhaps just another way to Claim Our Power™ and Live Our Best Lives™.

Then again, this self-reflection can be genuinely useful. If you have a Scorpio Moon in your chart, for example, you might read “you may have a tendency to make villains of people who you feel have wronged you.” It’s possible that you, a Scorpio Moon, don’t have that tendency and don’t identify with it. But if you do connect with it, would you have come to that conclusion on your own? Would a close friend make this suggestion to you? Perhaps you go to therapy every week, and after several sessions or so, your therapist might have suggested this. But what if you could suggest it first? And what if you can’t afford therapy in the first place?

It’s possible—probable, even!—that astrology is complete nonsense, that the planets and the moon and the sun have no impact on our personalities or the way our lives pan out. My ambition and accompanying self-guilt may be completely independent of the fact that the moon was in Capricorn on August 8, 1995, but I’ve still been nicer to myself since learning what it means, astrologically speaking. What is the downside to becoming aware of these patterns we might have, given how the sky was arranged at our time of birth? It seems especially valuable if these insights are able to serve as a social lubricant to start a more substantial conversation.

Personally, I sometimes use my astrological placements as an excuse when explaining things to my therapist, and this makes her laugh, which is very gratifying for a Leo like me.

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