Astrology Taurus Apart
Why Do We Look to the Stars for Answers?
by Maud Woolf
About a year ago a friend of mine, in the middle of a ‘getting to know you’ talk with a potential boyfriend, let it slip that she believed in horoscopes. His response was to break up with her on the spot. My friend took this rather well, despite the abrupt end to the blossoming romance. Her reasoning: it was a typical Virgo move. Depending on the reader his response could appear as anything from a massive overreaction to an understandable or even commendable decision. It’s easy to discuss the zodiac in terms of pure scientific evidence – or in its case the lack thereof. But, like Santa and soulmates, horoscopes don’t operate on logic: they operate on emotion. As a non-believer myself, I find it hard to understand the emotional hold horoscopes have. Horoscopes aren’t tied to familial background like religion or hard evidence like science, so what am I missing? The basic concept is at least vaguely familiar to most people. Every person is assigned one of twelve star signs, determined by the position of the sun at the time of birth, all of which correspond to certain character traits. They can be used to guide your interactions with others as well as tell your future.
Astrology seems to be popping up everywhere, and by everywhere, I mean of course everywhere on social media.
In June 2015 horoscope memes peaked in popularity on Tumblr, but posts matching star signs to fast food outlets and ABBA songs still circulate to this day. The zodiac retains an incredible shelf life in an era in which memes sometimes exist for less than 24 hours before becoming stale.
Perhaps as a result of this exposure, it’s not hard to find casual believers. Chances are you know at least one person who can tell you how being a Leo affects your love life. Another friend noted that they don’t believe in it but they do enjoy it. My friends and I enjoy giving each other gloomy predictions of the future based on the sage words of Hello!. What other pseudoscience could boast the same entertainment factor? It’s rare to find someone who practices homoeopathy for a laugh.
Yet actual belief is something rather different than casually flicking through a daily prediction in a magazine. Indeed, the statistics show only a small base of true believers.
A YouGov survey indicated that only 8% of British people believe that horoscopes can predict the future.
Yet, a larger portion of 20% believed that it could accurately tell you about yourself or other people. This difference indicates that the root of belief in horoscopes is a desire to know people rather than the future. advice not only for ourselves but for others. From only a birth date you can decipher the entire imagined trajectory of a relationship couched in terms of ‘compatibility’.
The quest for self-discovery is compelling – I can’t have been the only one to procrastinate by finding out which The Good Place character I am on a Buzzfeed quiz (Chidi). From Harry Potter houses to the slightly more scientific Myers-Briggs test, everything basically boils down to the same desire: to find some external framework for who we are.
Star signs don’t seem to be so focused on a sense of kinship within a group. If we slice up the entire human population into twelve, that makes an awful lot of Virgos to go around. The idea of being basically the same as a huge number of strangers doesn’t become reassuring so much as depressing. Instead, astrology seems to provide a sense of security over the ultimately unknowable mystery of who we are and how we connect to others.
We believe in horoscopes because we want to believe that we can understand the unknowable. The reality is life and people are messy. Relationships are messy. Horoscopes are something to cling to when nothing else makes sense. For me, the idea that a stranger could believe they have you pegged from a simple birthdate rubs me up the wrong way. But then again maybe that’s just because I’m a Libra.