It’s been a tumultuous week for anyone who feels a close affinity to their star sign.
It started when rumours began circulating that NASA had changed the zodiac signs by “discovering” a new one – named Ophiuchus. Countless articles and tweets from passionate astrology fans followed, with many declaring allegiance to their existing sign, no matter what NASA had to say about it.
The space agency has since published a blog post explaining that it hasn’t changed the star signs after all. “We study astronomy, not astrology,” the blog post says, adding that astrology is “not considered a science”. You don’t say.
Star signs were established by the Babylonians over 3,000 years ago, NASA goes on to add.
“To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12,” it says. “Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time.”
Ophiuchus is nothing new – but an interest in astrology is having a resurgence.
Co-Star, the astrological app that gives users daily horoscopes based on the exact time, date and place of their birth, has more than five million users worldwide with a clientele that is largely millennial, according to Vogue.
So, why are so many millions still fixated on their zodiac sign? Some of us enjoy horoscopes because we love the feeling of belonging to or identifying with a particular star sign, says psychotherapist Lucy Fuller, while others are “desperate to know what their future holds”.
“We can spend a lot of time over thinking and telling our future story in our heads, but what lies ahead is unknown and we just don’t know what’s around the corner in life,” says Fuller. “Reading our star sign, we can believe our destiny is already decided and we can get a clue as to what it going to happen for us.”
Arguably, that feeling is even more reassuring in time of uncertainty like this.
Astrology has a large dedicated following with an ancient history, Fuller points out, which makes it feasible to us, even if it is not scientifically proven.
“What we read can often give us hope or reassurance which is very comforting, and can help us to feel positive and hopeful about our future,” she says.
“What is written is often very ambiguous and suggestive so we can read into it something that is applicable to our own circumstances, which can feel very personal and make us feel connected to our destiny.”
Astrology may have a rich cultural history – it plays a key part in some religious ceremonies – but it’s also been heavily commercialised, with horoscope hotlines charging for a daily reading, acres of astrological merch online – and newspapers and magazines using the zodiac to fill their back pages.
One journalist, who wishes to remain anonymous, recalls feeling shocked at learning how the horoscopes were created when she did work experience at a teen magazine 14 years ago.
“I couldn’t believe it when one of my tasks was to make up the horoscopes. Literally just make them up,” she says. “I wasn’t a big horoscope fan at the time, but I still read them, and it tainted it for years after, whenever I saw the horoscopes in the mag, because I knew they were completely bullshit.”
Even knowing how some of the horoscopes we read in papers and magazines are created, Fuller points out that many people will still enjoy pouring over them – taking the content itself with a pinch of salt.
“For many people, reading their horoscope is part of their daily routine,” she says. “Just a few moments of self-care to set themselves up for the day.”