I share my star sign with both Charles Manson and Hilary Clinton, what on earth does that say about me?
I’m a Scorpio, of course, which means I am stubborn, deeply emotional (under the surface) and passionate. I can nurse a grudge for decades, I am secretive and hard to get to know, I am intense. I am a water sign which makes sense; I can spend hours in the bath and the sea air calms me. I am assertive and likely to be a leader in my field- wait a second… We’ve hit a dead end here. My own mother emails me links to courses with titles like “How to be more assertive” and in all my years on this planet, I have never been “manager material”. I thought this stuff was supposed to be accurate?
Human beings love belonging, we love being part of a group. We are tribal creatures, it is written into the very fabric of who we are; we love categorising ourselves to fit in to groups, be they majorities or niches, we just can’t help ourselves. I am personally a member of innumerable groups. I am female, I am Caucasian, I am in my twenties, I have hay fever, I don’t like baked beans, I do like tomatoes, I have read The Great Gatsby, I enjoy rock music, I don’t enjoy Jazz, I think pineapple belongs on a pizza. And in that arbitrary list, I have identified ten groups that I belong to. Ten things I may have in common with someone else, ten potential points of solidarity or conflict. I am infinitely groupable and so are you.
Tribalism used to be a pre-requisite for survival, there truly was strength in numbers whether we were hunting and gathering or claiming land or leaving our children with members of the community so that we could go out and work. Nowadays, tribalism can be a destructive and harmful force but the desire for belonging is both natural, and relatable.
Our Astrological signs are an easy way to put ourselves into yet another group of people, to create a sense of shared experience and a knowing of one another. I’m not just stubborn, I’m stubborn because I’m a Scorpio. You love the limelight because you’re a Leo or maybe your boldness comes from the fact that you are an Aries.
You can read your horoscope online or in a newspaper or magazine (remember those?) and it’s easy to see yourself in your reading, in fact it’s encouraged. The predictions and descriptors can definitely be applied to your life in some way and just like that, you’ve found another group to be a part of.
I suppose two distinct groups worth considering are those who believe in astrology and those who don’t.
Humans also love storytelling; it is one of our oldest and most enduring art forms. We have come a long way from ancient Greek legends and folklore to Game of Thrones and Pixar but the art of storytelling is still very much alive and our long lasting interest in Astrology proves just that.
For centuries, we looked to the skies and found meaning in the abstract, we crafted narratives about who we are and why based just upon the stars and the heroes painted across the night sky in the form of constellations. In a time where folk tales and superstitions held as much weight as scientific journals might today, it becomes easier to understand why people were inclined to put so much faith and certainty in something like astrology. Reading someone’s stars and seeing their future, full of glory or opportunity, was a method of making sense of the world through story telling and a trust in the mystic. If your fate was decided by the stars and the mythology surrounding them, difficult experiences in the world were more understandable and easier to accept in times when concrete answers were hard to come by.
For me personally, horoscopes, astrology and star signs are remnants of a time in history when people didn’t have information right at their fingertips in the same way that we do today. We are a curious species and, on the whole, we like to know what makes our world tick. So why not ascribe meaning to the stars? To the glittering night sky, stretched out above us, vast and mysterious and potentially supernatural. There is majesty in constellations, in those tiny twinkles of light, so far from terra firma yet so present in our lives. We call them “The Heavens” for a reason and that reason isn’t difficult to understand, regardless of your belief system.
I think astrology is nonsense. I think it’s a bit of silly fun, trying to bend your assigned traits or predictions to fit your situation. Sometimes, we don’t have to bend much, sometimes a horoscope is eerily spot on but still, as a sceptic, I have to put my faith in coincidence. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t magic in those distant constellations or in the very stars our ancestors used to make sense of what it was to be alive.