Three Ways Astrology is Useless (And Three Ways It Isn't!)
When I was a teenager and the internet was new, I found my horoscopes on some godforsaken AIM chat room. My mother told me “we don’t read those things in this house – they’re from the devil!” (my mother is a very nice person and I doubt she actually said “from the devil” but it was something along those lines). Ever since then astrology has fascinated me, and I’ve been working out its role in my life for years.
Having had the experience of being exposed to all kinds of responses to astrology as a professional astrologer, I have concluded that the crucial difference in how accurate a chart or horoscope is lies in intention. While many people are indifferent to their astrology, some people are vehemently opposed to its use, even to the point of getting offended at the very mention of a person’s sign. Others follow their chart and daily transits rigorously, reading several horoscopes a day. Regardless of your opinion of astrology, this post is aimed at clarifying my personal beliefs about the potential misuse of astrology, and some alternative suggestions to enhance astrology’s usefulness to your daily life.
Astrology misuse #1: Justification of hurtful behavior.
When reading birth charts, many astrologers will highlight the so-called “positive” and “negative” traits of each sign. One can argue that knowing your potential flaws should help avoid them, but I’ve noticed others, and even myself, use this information to identify with and enable harmful behaviors, calcifying them into habit. If I say, “I can’t help but yell at you, I’m a Leo!” or “My Scorpio sex drive made me cross your boundaries!” it allows me to separate from being accountable to the immense amount of choice I have in this free will world. It also disempowers whoever my harmful behavior is directed toward, allowing them no space to have their feelings recognized and validated that they were hurt by my choices. In other words, just cause I’m a Virgo rising, it doesn’t give me free license to be a jerk.
As an alternative…
Rather than justification for harmful action, think of your birth chart as an opportunity for growth and change through healing action. Learning your birth chart is an exercise in seeing all parts of your potential. It is important to remember that there’s more to us than our Sun sign, and that all charts are balanced in their own unique way, with checks and balances built in. All the signs’ traits can be fully positive gifts unless they are abused, or if the checks and balances are ignored. Yes, you may be an Aries, and you may get fired up very easily, but chances are if you look into your chart there is bound to be some cooling water signs in there to identify with in times of anger, some air signs to help you think things through before you act, or some earthiness to get grounded in and keep the flames from spreading. Start practicing identifying with the helpful elements in your chart, and work towards countering the ones that do not serve you or others.
Astrology misuse #2: Predetermination as erasure of free will
Yes, the planets appear to move through the sky in patterns. Yes, ancient peoples of this planet ascribed meaning to those movements. Yes, we sometimes say that this influences us. But this is not entirely accurate. True, the planets probably do move us in some way on some imperceptible scale, but it is not measureable (yet) and was not likely the motivation of the meanings the early astrologers ascribed. Even if it was, in the same way as personality isn’t determined entirely by one sign in your birth chart, behavior that is solely motivated by one astrological aspects of one day, contrary to what daily horoscopes might have you thinking. The idea that the planets cause all our actions leaves out a critical factor: the planet we are on. Right here, all around us, are bodies that spring from the planet Earth. These bodies, much more than heavenly bodies, influence us more directly and powerfully than the distant planets. Compassion and presence are more powerful drivers than random chaotic celestial influencers. Astrology can be used to deepen this compassionate connection, and should not be used against it. So if you find yourself saying “No I can’t help that person who just busted her hip in front of me, there’s a Mercury retrograde and Saturn’s in Leo and my horoscope told me to take care of myself today, not others!”-- check yourself. You might be abusing astrology.
As an alternative… Instead of predetermination, think of astrological aspects as inspiration for meditation. Daily transits offer themes and connections between concepts that come from external sources. These are almost always easier to delve into as meditation prompts than following our own minds, which are often scattered and distracted, or stuck in neurological ruts. The planets however, offer more random concepts to consider, more than we might think of on our own, what with all the possible permutations of aspects, planets, signs, houses, retrogrades, etc. As a bonus, connections between your birth chart and these daily transits offer a personalized inspiration that you can feel is “just right” for only you. Using this information as a meditation will keep your mind actively focused on higher goals, rather than mindlessly following the planetary influence du jour. With your mind attuned to higher concepts as a daily practice, you’ll be able to make clear, helpful decisions on your own.
Astrology misuse #3: Passing judgment based on someone’s sun sign
This might be my least favorite thing ever: “What’s your sign?” “Virgo” “Ohhhh get away from me!” (As a Virgo rising, I personally attest to this being a very common response. What’s with the Virgo hate?). Regardless of whatever sign’s qualities you may be averse to, blatantly excluding and ridiculing someone for something they have no control over is cruel and rude. Not only that, it’s astrologically inaccurate. As already discussed, a person is not solely defined by their sun sign. In fact, given all the influences, the sun sign may be one of the least important to whether you’re going to get along with someone or not. Passing judgment or cutting a person out of your life based on their sun sign is like rejecting a perfectly good mango because it was picked on a Tuesday. Astrology isn’t useful if it’s used as a way to justify cruel power plays over people, or to enable prejudice.
As an alternative…
Think of “what’s your sign” as a totally neutral conversation starter, no more influential on the outcome of a relationship than “how about this weather”. It’s an easy small-talk question to ask, many people will know what you mean, and it tells you a lot about a person’s relationship to astrology. You may find they’re totally against astrology and spark a debate, or find that they’re super nerdy about it and want to talk your ear off. Asking about someone’s chart is an easy way to get someone talking about parts of themselves they identify or do not identify with. You’ll get a lot of information about new people this way. It’s a question that might just foster a bit of trust and intimacy, if all goes well. And couldn’t we all use more trust and intimacy?
Astrology isn’t totally useless, though it can be harmful if abused. I try to focus on cultivating the parts of myself that I consider positive using the tools of balance in my chart. If those checks and balances are not in my chart for a specific area, I reach out to others for support in those realms. I don’t think anyone needs to be afraid to learn their chart- there’s nothing in there that can change how you see yourself, when it comes down to brass tacks. The only thing astrology can do is make suggestions. Those suggestions, if you identify with them, might change your perception or bring new desires to the surface, but they don’t have to be prescriptive. Loving yourself starts with knowing yourself, and astrology is one tool of many that can be helpful on that path.