Is Astrology Real or Not?

Paige Hanic - February 18th 2022

Like a lot of young students today - I am a big fan of astrology. So, I wanted my first blog post to show you wonderful minds what the practice of astrology is really all about. I’m hoping that together we can tackle some common misconceptions about the zodiac!

A hot topic of debate these days is whether astrology is real and scientific or whether it’s all just made-up wishful thinking.

When some people hear the word “astrology” they immediately start rolling their eyes and saying things like “NASA has disproved it!” and “there’s no way the stars know anything about my personality” or “it's all made up”. I get it - it seems pretty far-fetched that a bunch of planets and constellations have any real sway over our lives and personalities, but does that mean we should discredit the practice of astrology entirely?

1. Let’s start with the basics. What is astrology, really?

Astrology, simply put, is the belief that the stars, planets, and other celestial elements can tell us things about our lives here on earth. There are different forms of astrological practices. What is most commonly referred to in popular media (and what this article will discuss) is called Western Tropical Astrology. As the name suggests, this form of astrology is most common with Western astrologers like us over here in North America. Tropical astrology can also be thought of as moving astrology. Rather than relying solely on the stars and planets, tropical astrology also focuses on the seasons as they change and move throughout the tropical year according to the sun. Tropical astrology is broken up into 12 signs, each sign with its own time period of about four weeks that coincides with the seasons. For example, the first sign in tropical astrology is Aries, and its time period is from March 21st to around April 19th.

Astrology is much more complicated than popular media makes it out to be, however. People often believe that they have one zodiac sign which represents their entire personality. I, for example, am a Pisces according to this model. However, that is just one small part of my birth chart called a “sun sign”. Each person has their own unique and complex birth chart, which is a snapshot of the sky from the exact time and place a person was born. I won’t get into too much detail about birth charts in this article, but it’s important to remember that trendy magazine horoscopes are often not complete representations of astrology. Astrology is old. Like really, really old. Western astrology is around 3-4 thousand years old, in fact.

So before we throw an ancient belief system that is close to 4000 years old out the window, let’s talk a little bit about its contributions to the world as we know it.

2. What was astrology used for historically?

Historically, astrology was considered very important in the academic sphere and was used frequently in politics and academics because of its alleged predictive power. The separation between astronomy and astrology was a bit more blurry in the past, so astrology was definitely considered more scientific. This ended during the enlightenment period in the 1700's when hard facts and scientific evidence were valued more. After this, astrology was largely forgotten about, at least in terms of its academic status.

Astrology did rise again in popularity during the ’60's when spirituality became increasingly accepted in the west. Since then, it has maintained its popularity and is maybe even becoming more popular than ever among the younger generations.

3. So, is astrology a science then?

Well, probably not. But before all of you skeptics start saying “Ha! I told you so!”, hear me out. No, astrology can’t be proved with hard evidence or scientific methods. The science community loves to remind astrologers time and time again that it has no basis in logic or evidence. But that doesn’t mean it’s worthless, either.

There are plenty of belief systems and ideologies that can’t be proved scientifically, but to say that we should completely disregard them because of this is a very narrow-minded way to view the world.

Social sciences like sociology and some forms of psychology often do have their own research methods, but they’re nowhere near perfect. Studying social phenomena or mental inner workings is very difficult to do scientifically, but that doesn’t mean we should just stop trying or stop using what we have learned from these fields.

If humans abandoned the study of everything we couldn’t immediately quantify, verify and prove, I think the world would be a very cold and conventional place. Not very fun or interesting. Remember that there is value in subjectivity and the unknown!

4. A quick note about gender…

We can’t talk about astrology and its controversial reputation without also talking a little bit about gender. Women, especially teenage girls and young adult women, are more likely to be interested in astrology than any other group. It’s hard to say why this is, but as a sociology major, I lean more towards a nurture perspective. My best guess would be that women have grown up being taught to be more self-reflective and intuitive as caregivers, which is what society tends to expect from us. Regardless of the cause, women do make up a large portion of those who believe in astrology and practice astrology today. Many things that young women find interesting and valuable tend to get a bad reputation. Think of boy bands, young-adult fantasy fiction, selfie-taking, or pop singers like Britney Spears.

Often, these interests (which are more typical of teenage girls) are labeled as shallow or silly. This is a symptom of a much larger societal issue that I couldn’t possibly tackle in one blog post. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the interests of young women are often unjustly discredited and made fun of despite their value. Of course, these are generalizations and women aren’t the only people who show interest in astrology. Plus, there are plenty of women who reject astrology too. I’m simply pointing out that there seems to be a relationship between things that are shunned in popular media and things that are mostly enjoyed by women and girls. So next time a skeptic scoffs and tells you your interest in astrology is stupid- remember that it’s not true and that they could be reflecting a societal belief that they may not even be aware of.

5. My final thoughts- What is the value of astrology?

Many people agree that the weakness of astrology is how it tends to be overly vague and up for interpretation. I often hear things like “anybody could relate to any sign, so how is it real?” or “there’s no way there are only 12 types of people”. Well, I believe the interpretive nature of astrology is actually its biggest strength. When reading about a zodiac sign or a birth chart, people can take what they like and discard what they don’t see as useful. When people use astrology as a lens to examine themselves, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 100% accurate or not. It only matters whether the person benefits from the study and learns something personal. Astrology offers a suggested framework to reflect on your own personality and life. If everyone can relate to astrology in some way, I see that as a win - not a loss. Everyone can interpret the study however is most beneficial to them, and it doesn’t matter whether this is quantifiable or not. Self-reflection is something that humans are naturally fascinated by and astrology functions as a tool for that natural human interest. If astrology means something to you, then it is as valuable and important as any other science or hobby. If not, that’s fine too! But let’s not pretend that it has zero value. There are many things that other people believe that I will never understand (like flat earth theories, for example). Maybe to me, those things mean nothing. But who am I to tell someone that their interests are unfounded and worthless? If it’s not hurting anyone, I say it’s important, valuable, and worthy of respect.

Remember to be kind to everyone, even those you don’t understand!

6. Where to learn more about astrology?

If you’d like to learn more about astrology, I recommend Café Astrology’s website. They offer a free birth chart calculation tool as well as many articles about how to begin an astrology journey.