July 25, 2024


Science It Works

Astrology isn’t a science, and that’s the point

Growing up in Austin, surrounded by people with names like Indigo and River who forecasted the cosmos before saying hello, I had a complicated relationship with astrology. As I got older, my skepticism grew toward what appeared to be the zany dogma of eclectics who would rather live behind a rose-colored delirium than take responsibility for their lives and face the realities of science. 

So when my mom would tell me to be soft with myself because the energetic shift of Mercury squaring Mars could bring anxiety that day, I nodded as if I knew what squaring meant and how one planet could do it to another. I played along until college when I would once again smile and nod at someone who told me I was probably feeling restless because my moon is in Sagittarius. 

I assumed talk of the moon’s effect on my psyche was over until YouTube eerily suggested a video about my combination of a Capricorn sun and Sagittarius moon. An astrologer explained that while Capricorn is pragmatic and goal-oriented, the spontaneity Sagittarius craves may complicate these goals with an aversion to routine. I always thought astrology was too fatalistic, but as she went on, I realized that it was anything but. The astrologer explained that the traits and tendencies of each sign are possibilities, not predetermined truth. These possibilities can clarify how you learn and express emotion, what you seek in relationships and what drives you. Listening to her name the parts of myself that once felt unnamable, I started to realize that astrology is not meant to classify individuals into stereotypes, but provide a language and structure to get to know oneself on a deeper level. Rather than take a backseat to the planet’s whims, astrology challenges us to accept more responsibility for our lives.

This newfound appreciation was met with the cutesy force of pop astrology. While memes and quippy horoscopes have popularized the practice, they also fuel its many misconceptions. “Sun sign astrology” as we know it today was mainstreamed in the 1930s when newspapers started publishing oversimplified horoscopes to save money. Since then, all nuance has been reduced to something of a Buzzfeed quiz result, securing the zodiac’s place in the kitschy, juvenile underbelly of culture. 

At a time when the wellness industrial complex convinces us our mental health can be bought, astrology can reconnect us with our inner power. While his ties to astrology have been minimized, Plato believed that “the ensouled nature of celestial bodies” directly impacts humans, and that we must be aware of these elements to become fully present and in charge of our lives. 

Across cultures, people have used astrology to facilitate personal and social empowerment. However, since the earliest Babylonian records in the 2nd millennium BC, those in power have actively worked to shut it down. As Christianity gained prominence, astrology was banished as heresy. Even when it aided in scientific breakthroughs like the discovery of a heliocentric solar system, astronomers like Galileo had to conceal astrology’s influence. The Enlightenment traded God for rationalism, and astrology had no place under the worship of Logic and Reason. 

Scientists agree that astrology lacks scientific basis, and while few astrologers are still on the defensive, most are unconcerned. Astrology was never intended to be a science, and it doesn’t need to be. In the same way that religion can be used in a healthy, nondogmatic way, astrology can create spiritual meaning of life’s patterns and encourage introspection. 

Many argue that the characteristics of each sign could apply to anyone. This is true, and it’s actually the whole point. While astrology reveals what makes us unique, it also illuminates universal patterns. A common astrological mythology that developed throughout time from Greece to China shows that all humans have a fundamental need to find meaning in our material world. 

What Plato called a “world soul,” ancient Vedic astrologers understood through karma and interconnectedness. As the planets move, they interact with each other, just as humans ebb and flow symbiotically. We’re bound by innate longing for connection and vulnerability, and astrology brings us back to these basic human instincts.

Our Western capitalist system naturally pushes astrology to the margins, even as it contains just as much, if not more, mysticism and lack of physical grounding. The stock market is a game of predicting the future, speculating about intangibles. While padded with numbers and justified by degrees, our economic system was deliberately manufactured, and despite its lack of material footing, keeps spinning its wheels. We are taught to believe in the magic of the market and dismiss astrology, which will always be irrational under a system that doesn’t calculate the cost of mental, physical, or spiritual wellbeing. 

New York-based astrologer Lohla Shannan Jani explained how many white practitioners operate with a “colonial image of astrology as an irrational practice by uncivilized mystics from backwards cultures,” yet build their careers off these very traditions. 

Westernization incentivizes surface level interactions with astrology. Rather than facing ourselves honestly and learning from people with different experiences, we often seek validation for close mindedness (“My zodiac says I’m stubborn, this is just how I am.”) or a quick-fix character upgrade (“Leo: share the spotlight, watch your life transform!”). When this “astrology” is most of what we see, it makes sense why many people want nothing to do with it. With today’s flood of oversimplified, whitewashed content, it’s necessary to ground our understanding in the zodiac’s dynamic, nonwestern roots. 

Learning about astrology can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. You can start by making a free birth chart and looking further into each placement. Reading more about my Aquarius Mars, for example, helped me figure out and work with my specific learning style. Understanding my Libra rising reminds me to check in with myself more instead of catering to others’ expectations. As popular as Co Star is, I’d suggest other free apps like Sanctuary, Astro Future, or Chani, which are less generalized and provide more tools for growth, even if they don’t quite nail the Gen Z-fetichizing design. 

When I think back to those Austin eclectics, I now realize that I was the one living behind a rose-colored delirium. I let the demands of capitalism and science guide my every move, limiting my existence to what could be defined through rigid frameworks. I now realize that embracing astrology isn’t rejecting science, it’s being open to more expansive ways of being that can’t be neatly measured. It means admitting we don’t have the answers, so we may as well embrace the unexplainable.

With the sun in Pisces this month, and after a historic Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in December, the moment is ripe for collective and individual transformation. While the shift from traditional Capricorn energy to innovative Aquarius may provide the foundation for change, it’s up to us to take advantage of these shifting energies. We have an opportunity to reflect on our stakes in these social reckonings, to materially root our actions in sustainable practice. Now is the time to get creative about how we show up for each other and ourselves, and maybe even use astrology to help us along the way. 

Miranda Gershoni is a Trinity junior. Her column usually runs on alternating Wednesdays.