Reading horoscopes is an addictive ritual, even in a world of skeptics

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Terra Loire’s daily scan of horoscopes is as routine as her daily coffee. The 29-year-old Torontonian said horoscopes allow her to set goals for the day.

“While astrologers bring their own biases and experiences into writing horoscopes, there is always a common thread based on your zodiac and it is nice to just give some belief to the stars,” she told Global News. 

“Sometimes you just need a little guidance and ritual to keep yourself grounded; if you’re not a particularly religious person or if you don’t have a strong family structure… astrology is just a click away.”

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Flipping through newspapers to read through your sign, or navigating natal charts, or even understanding positions of the sun, moon and planets are all ways people interact with astrology. While it can be as basic as seeing if you’ll have a good day, to as complex as setting a date for your wedding, cultures and communities have relied on the stars for centuries.

Loire remembered reading into horoscopes when she was a child, but as she got older, she took them more seriously. A few years ago she got her full chart read and realized Leos, in particular, made bad lovers. 

“Looking back over my dating history, I realized 90 per cent of my exes were Leos, and the reasons the relationships dissolved were exactly what my chart was saying,” she continued.”

Tracing the origins

Astrology has been around for centuries and some astrologers, astronomers and other professionals can’t even pinpoint where it started, Time magazine reports.

“There’s some indication that cave art shows this idea that animals and things can be imbued with some kind of spirit form that then has an influence on you, and if you appease that spirit form, then you will have a successful hunt. That was taken over by the idea of divination, where you can actually look at things in nature and study them carefully, such as tea-leaf reading,” astronomer Sten Odenwald, the director of Citizen Science at the NASA Space Science Education Consortium told the magazine in 2018.

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Credit: Laura Whelan

Astrology can be rooted in early Mesopotamian, Chinese, Egyptian, Indian and Greek cultures and horoscopes are based on astrology, the Smithsonian magazine reported. The Astrology Podcast noted some of the first horoscopes written in English for newspapers were in the 1930s and ’40s.

Western astrology has been a mix of all of the above, astrologer and tarot card reader Liz Worth told Global News. “Over the course of centuries upon centuries, astrology has become a blend of many different practices and traditions,” she said, adding there is no one way to study the craft.

“When we talk about what systems we are using, it really depends on the astrologer and what type of astrology they’re practicing.”

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Some focus on traditional types of astrology (could be religious or spiritual), while others look at modern techniques focused on evolution. New astrologers bring their own ideas to the practice and this is needed, Worth said.

“If everybody was using the same type of astrology that was in practice hundreds of years ago… it would have a very medieval feel to it.”

Why people love them

Some readers will take time to look into this history of where their charts or signs come from, while others just want a quick tidbit of the day. The reasons why horoscopes become ritual, addictive or meaningful changes depending on how people interpret them.

Charm Torres, an astrologer and tarot card reader based in Toronto said many people depend on their daily horoscopes.

Credit: Getty Images.

“Horoscopes, in general, are a gateway drug for a lot of people,” Torres said, adding it grabs people’s attention because it allows them to re-evaluate their life that day.

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“People really want to see themselves mirrored, sort of the human desire to be seen.”

If we are having a bad day, a good day or an off day, a horoscope can be a sense of relief, experts said.

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Krystal Stukas, 25, from Toronto, reads her horoscope every day on an app. “[The app] tells me about the movement of the planets and explains why you may be feeling the way you are feeling at a certain point in time.”
She usually reads her horoscope at the end of the day. “One day on the way home [after a stressful day at work], I checked my horoscope and the planet transits and it literally said something along the lines of, ‘stressful situations lasting three or four weeks because of [this planet] being in [this sign].'”
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Worth added when it comes to the psychology around horoscopes, some people use them as guidance but others may rely on them to make important decisions. This can be cultural (some people may rely on astrology to determine when they have children), for others, it speaks to a lack of confidence.

“We all have to use our best judgement and each of us have to be really clear in what makes sense for our own lives in that moment and to not let astrology do the thinking for us,” said Worth.

Barriers in the industry

Worth added horoscopes have gone through a rise in popularity recently, and while it is not new, technology has allowed people to access their horoscopes on a much larger scale. Instead of waiting for a daily newspaper, you could essentially read 25 versions of your horoscope in minutes.

Janelle Belgrave, an astrologer and horoscope writer based in New York, told Global News she often feels overwhelmed with the number of requests she gets to write horoscopes.

“It’s kind of that moment you’re happy people are finding it and are curious, but also nervous it’s going to be like every other fad… where people wear it out to something people hate.”

She added the digital world has allowed astrologers to build blogs, create podcasts and boost followings on social media sites like Twitter. “There’s content for people who want to take it seriously.”

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This has been extremely helpful for people of colour, who still have a hard time navigating a mainstream audience, she said. “But there are groups of black and brown astrologers who do the work of bringing diversity to those conferences, for example.”

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This could mean assisting people with airfare, hotel fees and other barriers astrologists of colour may face trying to break into the industry.

Of course, another barrier is the skeptics. All experts agree not everyone will take a written horoscope as truth, and with so many different descriptions and astrologers out there, it can be difficult for some to believe it.

“The thing about horoscopes [is that] everyone kind of has a different style, but the majority of us are writing things that are similar. We are looking at the same information,” Belgrave said.
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Torres added it’s fine if people don’t believe in her work, it’s more about focusing her energy on those all over the map who do. “In the digital age… there is something deeper and an interpersonal connection [online].”

What to do if you’re curious

If you want to learn more about horoscopes, all experts suggest finding an author and following their work. 

It may also be useful to look at the origins of astrology, to truly appreciate where it comes from. Podcasts, books and social media have also been able to create like-minded communities.

Loire said like anything, you need to put effort into this system of belief.

“You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. A skeptic or cynic is always going to point out flaws and holes, which is your prerogative, but to me seems like an annoying way to move through the world.”

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