While astrology is often dismissed as nothing more than sensationalized horoscopes that claim to predict individuals’ futures, the zodiac can still provide unique insights about human nature. I was a zodiac skeptic for many years, thinking that it was absurd for people to claim that every person on Earth can fit into one of 12 designated groups. So when I came across The Little Giant Encyclopedia of the Zodiac in a bookstore a few years ago, I marveled at the idea of someone actually taking the book seriously.
But as I skimmed through it and read about my sign (Cancer), I was shocked by the text’s accuracy. The chapter on Cancer basically had me down to a T. Sections titled “Cancer Personality,” “The Cancer Female,” “The Young Cancer,” “Cancer at Work,” and “Likes & Dislikes,” went into vivid detail that captured much of the essence of my personality. Sure, many of the characteristics and tendencies described could be applied to non-Cancers, but the sum of all descriptions would not apply to just anyone.
I read through the other signs and compared them to my family members, who also strikingly lined up with their sign descriptions. Maybe by chance, I happen to be someone who aligns with my sign characteristics more so than others, but even though I felt a bit ridiculous reading the book, I could not simply dismiss it. It provided me a unique outlook on my own tendencies that I take for granted. As long as astrology can help people understand themselves in a new light, or allow them to simply take on new perspectives, it is serving its purpose.
I am not saying to take astrology as fact, or as a science—because it is definitely not that. Interestingly enough, though, the Myers-Brigg corporate personality test that is so widely used today is based on the studies of psychology expert Carl Jung, who was passionate about astrology. While the test is still widely used in the business world, professionals have been calling into question the validity of the test altogether.
Yet, while astrology is instinctively dismissed, the Myers-Brigg test has been touted as helping “to build self-awareness and [being] a great tool for understanding how we interact with the world and the people around us.” Why not say the same of astrology?
While the book I have based most of my zodiac understanding on does provide remarkable description of the signs, it cannot account for the different lives of each individual that so prominently shape who we are. Rather, astrology seems to address an aspect of the great nature versus nurture debate—specifically, that much of our personality is determined at birth. Drawing from the meaning of celestial objects, it describes underlying and influential qualities in people’s lives, unshaped by each individual’s upbringing.
A person is given a certain zodiac sign depending on the alignment of the sun with a constellation on the day they are born. I know—I also think it’s far-fetched to claim that personality can be attributed to the stars, but it doesn’t mean it is completely inaccurate. We’ll never really know for sure, and that’s okay as long as it can help us think about ourselves in a different and constructive way.
People have actually been referring to the cosmos for guidance since the days of Ancient Greece. The Greeks named the 12 signs we know today after their designated constellations, while the Bablyonians added a symbol to each (i.e. The Scales for Libra) and watched the stars as a way to follow the movements of the gods. Up until the late 17th century, astrology was considered a science that included astronomy.
The sheer age and continuous practice of astrology throughout most of human existence should be enough to make people hesitate before shrugging it off as horoscope-infused nonsense. I hope the vast history of the astrological field won’t be further watered down in our such scientifically advanced time, so we can appreciate the role it plays in shaping culture.
It may seem crazy to think that the stars truly have any impact on human traits, but we are all made of stardust. The tides on Earth are in fact ruled by the moon, and as professional astrologer Diana Brownstone notes in Vogue, “Even the sun … affects your energy, your sense of self, it changes our skin, it makes plants grow, and it even affects us psychologically—we can’t just chalk up the sun to being a blob out there that has no effect on anything or anyone. Same with the moon, same with the planets.” She elaborates on her belief that “we pick up energy from the universe and the planets, which are the intermediaries connecting us to the greater cosmos.”
Whether you are a believer or not, the fact that so many people do believe in astrology reveals a lot about human nature. The zodiac allows people to maintain a unique sense of individuality while also bringing people together under a guiding universal force. Whether they know it or not, those who believe in the zodiac are essentially turning to the cosmos for help deciphering interpersonal relations in their lives by comparing personality traits and attitudes.
“We use the stars, planets, and celestial bodies to understand ourselves as multidimensional beings,” Aliza Kelly, another professional astrologer, stated in Cosmopolitan. “Practicing astrology sparks self-awareness, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.”
Even if you don’t buy into the idea of humans having a celestial connection powerful enough to affect how we act, the fundamentals of astrology can still be beneficial in daily life. I would say a good portion of the general public experiences some resonance with their zodiac sign—it’s at least something most people are cognizant of. The Atlantic reports that millennials, who are described as experiencing more stress and uncertainty than previous generations, especially connect with astrology as a way to find order and insight in their lives. According to The Independent, 58 percent of 18-24-year-old Americans view astrology as scientific. While it is not actually scientific, the statistics reveal a widespread adherence to the practice.
People who refer to the zodiac can use the signs to better understand others and even themselves. Astrology really provides an alternative path for personal guidance that focuses on the essence of human nature. At the bare minimum, astrology can bring to light the value of empathy—taking the time to acknowledge where people come from, and how their nature influences their interactions with others.