Why Is Astrology So Popular?

Astrology is more popular than ever right now — let’s talk about why.

Astrology has been around for thousands of years, with its origin typically being credited to the Babylonians. This practice was eventually introduced to the Greeks, to the Romans, and then to every other place in the world at the time. This practice sought meaning by looking at the stars, the planets, and other celestial bodies as a way of better understanding human meaning. As it spread throughout the course of history, different principles and interpretations of astrology were also created, like Vedic astrology from Hindu culture that branched off Hellenistic astrology, East-Asian astrology that paralleled teachings of Chinese philosophy, and Western astrology that is founded on the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies. Out of the following, Western astrology is the one that is most commonly studied and practiced most due to it being arguably more easy to understand by many than other systems.

You’re probably wondering, “Why didn’t I ever learn about this in my school textbook?” Well whether you think it accurate or not, astrology is considered a pseudoscience, regardless of its historical significance. It’s not an accredited science per se, but more so a belief system. During the 1960s and ’70s, astrology took off again during the New Age movement; this was a time of embracing mysticism and eclectic spirituality, becoming more in tune with the mind, body, and spirit. If you grew up an angel-headed teen around this time, perhaps you remember having a copy of Linda Goodman’s book, Sun Signs, on your bookshelf, maybe you remember suddenly seeing a TON of new literature that catered to this New Age subculture. Maybe you remember seeing more than just literature, but other things geared towards any “zodiac loving hippie” that was willing to buy whatever they were peddling. As the ’70s were left in the glittery dust, astrology was for a while too, as we saw the New Age subculture shift and morph into other things, other beings, somehow both keeping with the time while going back IN time. We saw astrology fade back into obscurity for a while, its name not mentioned at the fear of being accused of lunacy. It never fully faded away from culture; you may have seen a horoscope in the back pages of a local newspaper right next to your weekly “funnies” that you glossed over while eating your breakfast, or perhaps in a magazine, you flipped through at the register while the clerk at the store scanned your items, it was always THERE, but kept a low profile, but in the past few years, it has crescendoed back into relevancy, which no other conductor waving the wand than us Millenials.

So why are Millenials suddenly adopting astrology? Why the sudden appeal? The answer is tricky. For some, it could be just how easily accessible this information is nowadays, you don’t have to lug around that huge copy of Sun Signs anymore — there’s already a PDF and abridged version online FOR you. There are countless blogs and apps feeding you weekly, or even daily, horoscopes like an Ask Abby column, there are websites that can input your birth date and time that give you a giant wheel of lines and symbols that upon later research and interpretation, actually mean a lot of different things, some of which you might really relate to! For some, it’s just the quest for information, which in the digital age, almost feels insatiable. For others like myself, however, astrology has become this tool for understanding ourselves better, for deep diving into the cosmos to figure out “Why am I like this?”, and in my opinion, it’s been pretty effective. I’ve spent a lot of time educating others on astrology, whether it be making informative threads on the House Systems, or reading someone’s natal chart and explaining to THEM why they’re “like that”, and it’s rewarding to see the clarity it provides people or for them to say “that’s eerily accurate”. In this time of uncertainty and with so much happening around us to worry about, it can put the mind at ease to at least be able to understand what these energies that exist in us are and how to use them to our advantage.

We’re not the only ones taking advantage of this knowledge, however, brands and companies are too. This is where we start to walk the line of market segmentation; market segmentation is that thing that businesses use to “split up” the type of market they’re trying to appeal to. The four most common are Geographic, Demographic, Behavioral, and Psychographic. For example, if you’re trying to entice people in the greater Seattle area to visit your store, you would only want to reach people that are in Seattle and surrounding areas; that’s Geographic. With this type of marketing, Psychographic segmentation comes into play, because of instead of segmenting by location or climate or even population, you’re segmenting a specific group based solely on things like lifestyles, values and beliefs, interests, etc… This marketing starts off fairly innocent too; maybe you saw that BH Cosmetics makeup palette with each shade named after the 12 zodiac signs, and even though the color story didn’t match the sign it corresponded with, you just HAD to have it because it felt nice that the brand was trying to be more inclusive to something you’re interested in. Brands take notice when something is being talked about en masse, like a trend. Astrology, tarot, crystal healing, everything under the umbrella of spirituality and occult is no exception to this rule — it wasn't in the ’70s.

There’s a great deal of harm when brands do this; to both the brand and the consumer. Look at what happened when Sephora tried to monetize a “starter witch kit” with a (probably fake) rose quartz, a cheap deck of tarot cards, and a bundle of white sage. When Sephora pulled that stunt, people took to social media to complain because this was an example of how a brand will turn anything into an aesthetic they can profit from, and they aren’t the only guilty party. From Target launching astrology t-shirts featuring the “13th sign”, Ophiuchus (which is only used in some practices of Vedic astrology FYI, Western astrology does not claim it), to Dolls Kill releasing limited edition astrology lines for each month and each sign, which are just some really gaudy items placed on a high markup, in my opinion. Brands do this all the time under the guise of inclusion, but where is the line drawn between inclusion and aestheticizing a group of people? This type of aestheticizing is also dangerous for the people that solely only want to adopt the culture FOR the trend rather than the history and information behind it. This kind of thing happens a lot and it can make a mockery of the culture to those that have a genuine love and understanding of it, who have adopted it as a means of self-improvement or to understand ones’ self better.

I interviewed a few friends of mine from the spiritual community on Twitter on this topic and here’s what they had to say:

“So I think astrology going mainstream could definitely be a great thing! Personally, I’ve been able to better myself and grow as a person by looking at my placements and understanding why I am the way I am. I feel like self-improvement and self-awareness are great things. I also feel like for our future generations it could be great, for example. Teachers knowing their placements so they know how to teach them, parents being able to parent better because they’ll know WHY Bethany is throwing a temper tantrum. Think of all the possibilities!” —Chakra, @libramoonstone on Twitter and on Instagram.

“I don’t necessarily think astrology going mainstream is “bad.” I’m more worried about how it will be utilized by people who don’t have good intentions. Astrology, especially today, has always drawn marginalized and vulnerable people. I worry that there will be people who attempt to take advantage of these populations. I also worry that many of these people who have studied this for years will be overlooked in favor of people with more privilege who want to profit on this popular upswing (like Sephora and other major retailers marketing “witch kits” and taking business from small sellers).” —Adina, @plvtorising on Twitter and on Wordpress.

“I got into astrology before I could ever afford a therapist, and I couldn’t tell you which has been more healing. Anyone with internet access can learn astrology for free, and in that sense, it’s a more accessible modality than therapy. Not that astrology is a replacement for necessary medical treatment. Astrology has helped me through breakups, through coming out as queer, through navigating all kinds of life challenges, and it’s continued to support me in my personal development long after I decided to stop seeing a therapist. So the potential for healing, from my perspective, outweighs any potential negatives that could come of astrology being mainstream.

I also think the mainstreaming of astrology is supportive of social justice because guess what, it currently is and has always been used by the elite to advance their own interests. The more marginalized peoples get to use astrology for our own empowerment, the better. What do we, astrology professionals and enthusiasts, have to lose, anyway? The street cred of being mysterious and knowing things our friends don’t? As we continue to learn more about the universe, as human consciousness expands, as society evolves, so will astrology and in that sense, there will always be an esoteric element to the practice that couldn’t be mainstream even if you tried.” — Kiriko, @kikibabemagic on Twitter and on her personal blog

“I think astrology becoming mainstream is going to help in that folks are going to be more conscious of the ways other people are and they themselves are. We live so disconnected from society right now, so this brings us together in a way, I also see this huge disconnect within the self, so I feel that astrology can help people understand themselves in a different and more detailed way.” — Amanda, @plutodombitch on Twitter.

As astrology, as well as other spiritual things, become more mainstream, it’s important to do our best to educate those who want to be educated. Perhaps someone’s curiosity STARTED in the clothing section at Target when they saw that shirt and want to understand what the hell Ophiuchus is, or maybe someone who was going to buy that cheap tarot deck from Sephora legitimately wants to get into tarot, it’s up to us to help point those that are willing in the right direction, and anyone that doesn’t? Eh, they’ll be gone as soon as the next trend rolls in. I wonder what that’ll be…

If you like astrology and want to learn more, feel free to follow me on my personal/astrology account, @thesteelyhan on Twitter. I do chart readings, post informational threads, and the occasional meme here and there.

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Hannah S. Mase

Hannah S. Mase

I’ve always hated that part on a website where you have to write “About” yourself...