The Universal Appeal of Astrology – How a Generation of Creatives Found Solace in the Stars
Words by Ellen Atlanta
I don’t believe in horoscopes. There, I said it. The spiritual equivalent of saying I hate puppies, that Alexander McQueen has no talent or that Glossier Boy Brow is overrated. I don’t believe in astrology, it’s true, and I’ve probably lost 75% of you already, but bear with me. I don’t believe in horoscopes, BUT, I love my sign (Scorpio, Leo rising FYI), and I regularly find myself in conversations about it. I follow three astrology meme accounts on Instagram; if there’s astrology content on my favourite fashion/beauty/lifestyle site, I’m there, and last week, I even downloaded an app ‘Co-Star’, to send me daily notifications based on an analysis of my chart. For some reason, I (and everyone around me, it seems) can’t get enough of astrology.
Horoscopes have become an undercurrent of millennial life. A mystic air that encircles and enshrouds us all, the believers and the non-believers alike. In a strange magnetic way, we can’t stay away from it. As an abstract spirit guide, a pillar of support, an act of self-care, a form of entertainment, a bonding ritual – astrology plays a role in each of our lives.
“That’s one of the great things about astrology,” says Claire Comstock-Gay, otherwise known as Madame Clairevoyant, for her highly popular horoscopes on The Cut. “It can fill a lot of different roles, depending on what you need it for. None of these reasons are better or worse, astrology can expand and contract to meet you where you need it.”
The number of 20-30 year olds who engage in astrology appears to be growing. The Cut have stated that horoscope content on their site received 150% more traffic in 2017 than the year before. For many in our generation, it’s far more than just a section on their favourite fashion and lifestyle site, it’s a way of life; something that describes who you are and how you behave, but also provides a structure for navigating millennial life.
“Connecting with my horoscope and star sign has prompted probably the most significant transformation of my life so far,” says Jess Young, a nail artist and musician from London. “It’s helped me to find myself and understand my character. My zodiac reading gives me guidance when I’m feeling lost, and that’s why I check it. Astrology has definitely found me in my darkest stages, almost as a message to tell me that I’m not alone, and there is something there to hold my hand.”
The quantifiers of Gen Z and younger millennials include early memories of 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the Iraq War. Our first political experiences gave us Brexit and Trump, and we are inheriting a planet more at risk from so-called natural disasters than ever before. Society’s most established institutions are failing us, so why would we look to them for support?
That metaphysical companion feels all the more necessary for our generation. A group more disenchanted with religion and politics than any other, a group more open-minded, but more financially restricted than our predecessors. The quantifiers of Gen Z and younger millennials include early memories of 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the Iraq War. Our first political experiences gave us Brexit and Trump, and we are inheriting a planet more at risk from so-called natural disasters than ever before. Society’s most established institutions are failing us, so why would we look to them for support? Astrology is a resistance, against the destructive, traditional ways of our elders, and the codes of behaviour we reject.
According to the global trend-forecasting agency WGSN, this increasing shift away from the physical and towards the mystic “is much more than a trend”.
“We are seeing a natural shift of mindset with younger people moving away from religion and looking to spirituality as a way to connect with themselves and their community on a deeper level,” says WGSN Senior Beauty Editor Theresa Yee.
Astrology offers a looser, more forgiving religion, one that puts you in the centre of your own universe, and back in control. This astrological pull is manifesting itself in our physical and virtual communities and within our communication, notably in the most Gen-Z format on the planet – pages and pages of astrological memes, dedicated Instagram accounts and apps solely focussed on providing daily guidance from an analysis of your charts.
“There is a growing astrological community online,” says Theresa. “With a spike in spiritual Instagram accounts and new digital platforms that provide customized horoscopes for a more personal touch. We are also noticing zodiac sign memes popping up all over social platforms.”
Twenty-one-year-old Jake Register founded one of those sites in 2017. @jakesastrology is a hilarious zodiac meme account dedicated to dissecting the signs with pop culture references and personalised chart readings. The account has gathered over 100,000 followers in less than nine months.
“We want to break the mould and re-write the rules, so to speak, so unconventional practices like astrology are attractive to us as a generation,” says Jake. “Astrology also offers a completely objective belief system that many traditional practices or religions don’t have. It describes the potential that a person or situation can live up to and offers a way to look at things from a different angle; other belief systems impose restrictions and rules about what you can or can’t do.”
He set up the account after noticing the growing interest in astrology online, and realised he could combine his passions to make the mystical more accessible. “I try to produce content that’s accurate from an astrological point, but also has humour that’s palatable to everyone, including people who don’t know a lot of astrology. I think that people are always looking for something to help them feel more secure. As we all know, the struggle is real – it’s not easy to feel stable in this day and age, so finding any kind of validation in your feelings from your horoscope feels reassuring. Astrology is my reminder that every time one door closes, another one opens – everything moves in a cycle. Your horoscope is always changing as the planets move through different signs, and each planetary aspect shows the potential of what you can accomplish or work towards.”
But even those that don’t believe in the magic of personality matching or the prophetic power of the stars, are finding value in the increasing amount of astrological content online. “Whether or not you really believe that the planets affect us in any real or physical way, astrology still offers really useful (and fun!) tools for talking about ourselves, our feelings, and our relationships with each other,” says Madame Clairevoyant, when I ask her about my constant desire to check my horoscope and psychoanalyse myself through my sign, despite insisting I don’t believe them in the slightest.
It’s that element of self-reflection and community building that can make astrology appealing, even to its sceptics. Like many young creatives, 24-year-old Olivia Yallop, a Creative Producer at The Digital Fairy, holds nostalgic memories of an adolescence spent pouring over horoscopes with her friends, something that’s translated into her adult life now. But, she admits, they’re not a tool she uses seriously.
“They’re something I check regularly, but not in a planned way. I do not look to them for actual advice on what is going to happen – I do not believe they are actually prophetic,” she says. “They’re more useful as a means of thinking about myself and my reactions. I notice I do so more when I feel stressed or out of control with various aspects of my life, or in times of uncertainty. It’s more of an organic, emotive relationship than a routine.
“I would say the main reasons I check mine are commonality and a shared experience that allows me to feel connected to others. I also use them as a tool to reflect on experiences and reframe my opinions or attitudes towards situations. In this way I find them helpful in hindsight – looking backwards or inwards – rather than as a predictive tool for the future.” Astrology offers a framework within which to explore ourselves, an open-ended and sympathetic assessment of your actions and behaviours, and a self-soothing solution to an increasingly anxious and frenzied generation.
“It’s an emotional, intuitive, highly personalised self-care practice that is incredibly introspective and offers codes for navigating a messy postmodern culture,” says Olivia. “Plus, I think it offers light relief, which again is a method of self-soothing. I think astrology represents a modern kind of spirituality for post-religious western youth culture. It resembles guidance from a higher power and is a source of stability and continuity for young people.”
It’s the young, creative community that seem to have adopted astrology more than any other. Announcing my scepticism towards the zodiac in previous jobs in beauty or fashion, has been met with disbelief and horrified whisperings of “but…how could you?!”. “It keeps us present,” adds nail artist Jess Young. “As a creative, it’s so much easier to overthink things and spiral out of control because that’s how we’ve been trained to think. That’s why a lot of us become depressed because we don’t see any positive outlook on coping with a mind that thinks too much and too deeply. Astrology and spirituality is that positive outlook; it guides me towards reading into the right things. I think creatives use astrology as a form of guidance more than anything, and a sense of belonging and safety.”
Whether there are any legitimate foundations on astrology’s ability to predict the future or mould our personalities, is yet to be proven. Only the universe knows. I’m a sceptic, but I appreciate that that’s beside the point. Astrology is a facilitator of connections; a way of accepting our complexities, our good and bad sides; coping with the predictable, unpredictable chaos that we live in, and communicating with each other within a framework that allows us to have flaws. Whether you believe in the ‘science’ of astrology or not, the predictions of the zodiac are a gentle reminder that if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll land among the stars.