In Turbulent Times, We Look To The Sky: How Astrology Is Soothing Millennial Women’s Souls

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked to the sky for guidance — and today is apparently no different. Millennials especially, seem to be flocking to the stars to soothe themselves even as they increasingly eschew organized religion.

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“I’m not saying you’re a serial killer, but if it weren’t for the fact that your sun exactly trines your moon, maybe you would be,” Angel Eyedealism, the world-renowned astrologer, performance artist, and East Village legend, says ominously. We are sitting at her kitchen table, drinking Yogi Tea, and looking at my natal chart on her 48-inch monitor. The chart in front of us looks like something the aliens in Arrival might come up with: circular, all-knowing. Angel, my spirit-guide for the next hour and a half, is wearing a silk robe with purposefully mismatched socks and platform slippers, along with drag-style glittering eyeshadow in bright turquoise and hot pink that gives her the appearance of an intergalactic peacock.
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Upon the moment of my birth, she explains, the Moon was in Scorpio, which means that I feel emotions very intensely (true), trust no one (very true), and am probably a bit paranoid (okay, also true.) “What makes it even more complicated is that the ruler of your moon is Pluto, and your Pluto conjuncts your moon,” Angel says. “It makes it even more intense.” Hence, why I might have ended up a serial killer, prone to losing myself in paranoid rage or jealousy, were it not for the influence of my sun, which happens to sit at the perfect angle to serve as a “mitigating factor.”
I’m not really sure how any of this works — trine, conjunct, suns and moons and various astral bodies, living in houses, ruled by planets, all with mysterious qualities. It’s all Greek to me — but nonetheless: What a relief to hear that the stars are protecting me from myself.
Since the dawn of time, humans have looked to the sky for guidance — and today is apparently no different. Millennials especially, seem to be flocking to the stars to soothe themselves even as they increasingly eschew organized religion.
A full quarter of Americans now identify as “spiritual but not religious,” according to an analysis of Pew Research Center data from September. Church attendance continues to decline, with millennials being the least traditionally religious of all living generations. The majority of Americans now agree it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral. Meanwhile, the psychic services industry — which includes astrology, as well as tarot-card reading, palmistry, and other metaphysical services — is growing. Between 2011 and 2016 it shot up 2%, according to industry analysis firm IBIS World. If that doesn’t sound like a big jump, think about it like this: It is now worth $2 billion annually, and it was one of the few industries to weather the crash in 2008 with “minimal declines.”
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Not only is astrology recession-proof, it proved to be a calming balm for the uniquely turbulent spiritual desert known as 2017. While horoscopes have long been a fun staple in magazines and newspapers, mostly useful just for giggling over, young women are returning astrology to its former glory by placing it at the center of their spiritual lives. “I’ve seen women in their 20s really get into learning their whole charts [this year]: moon signs, rising signs, all of it. I’m really impressed by the high-level cosmic conversations I hear young women having,” says Tali Edut, one-half of the AstroTwins. She adds that the AstroTwins’ website traffic doubled in 2017, suggesting that gas has been thrown on what was a slower burn in previous years.
“The 2016 election was a mindfuck for many people, like how is this actually happening?” Edut says. “But it’s not like this is the only reason. Young people are facing a challenging economy, unaffordable higher education, and the stress of bullying, social media, and an uncertain future about the environmental state of the planet. Astrology and spiritual practices are incredibly grounding in the face of this.”

Astrology and some of these other practices acknowledge that there is sacred feminine energy in the universe.

Nadiya Shah
Cameron, a 20-year-old Leo from Long Island, who declined to use her last name, has thrown herself into the study of her chart this year, thanks in part to (who else?) Donald Trump. Aside from being startling to the spirit all on his own, the President has driven a large wedge between Cameron and her mother, a Scorpio, who supported Trump in 2016.
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This was difficult for Cameron to grasp, as her mom has always been her idol, someone who instilled a lot of Cameron’s feminist beliefs. “My mom is a domestic violence survivor, a sexual assault survivor, and so for her to say she doesn't believe that Donald Trump sexually assaults women — to hear her say things like that really was devastating to me because I know what she's been through,” she says. “It was like she was invalidating everything that we'd been through as a family just to support this lunatic.”
Worse still, when the pair would argue about Trump, Cameron noticed her mom would manipulate the truth, stopping at nothing to make her case. It was very cunning, something she’d never noticed about her mom before, because she previously always agreed with her.
None of it made sense to Cameron — until she read her mom’s chart. “She is just such a classic Scorpio,” Cameron says. “And through astrology I’ve also found that, a lot of the gaslighting or manipulation she did to me was inherited through her own childhood. Of course I could figure this out without astrology, but when it’s written right there in her chart and interpreted, it is validating.” This doesn’t mean Cameron is letting her mom off the hook for her support of Trump, but it does help take the edge off the deeply personal, painful aspects here.
Astrology has also helped her realize and reflect on her own faults. “It’s just a way to put some reasoning behind some of my feelings and to give me a way to learn how to cope with certain things that I don't like about myself,” Cameron says.“ I see astrology as just another way for me to be self-aware. It helps me explain why I do certain things, why I act in a certain way, how I am in my relationships with friends, boyfriends, whatever. And meditating on it, helps me feel like I can be better.”
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She sees her new interest in astrology as equivalent to other faiths. “I definitely think that I get the same out of astrology that a lot of the people got out of their religions, whether that’s Christian, Muslim, Buddhist,” she says.
This is thanks to what L.A.-based astrologer Chani Nicholas refers to as astrology’s ability to lead to reflection. “We all are in desperate need of being reflective. We all deeply crave a reflection because a reflection kind of unlocks something in us and then it helps us to help to find our agency,” Nicholas says. In other words, astrology may seem frivolous (Cameron definitely could figure out her complex feelings about her mom without it, for example) but just by holding that space for reflection in her life, astrology becomes a powerful coping mechanism.
On top of that craving for reflection, we need connection, adds Nadiya Shah, a Canadian astrologer who has an M.A. in the cultural study of cosmology and divination from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. As interconnected as we all are now — by a global economy and the internet — these connections are mostly in our heads. They’re not tangible. “The word for this is ‘disembodied.’ Social media is great but the connection isn’t physical,’” Shah says. “Astrology to me is a way to restore a sense of meaning, magic, and order. We feel connected to the physical bodies of the stars, because they’re things we can see. They have spirit. But because they’re real, it’s an affirmation that we exist and our existence isn’t empty.”
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Chani Nicholas doesn’t totally buy into the idea that there is some new astrology craze these days. “I feel like it's a little myopic to say that what's going on right now hasn't always been going on. It's just going on in a different way, in a more public way, which may bring more people in, sure.” Nicholas says. “But this is just another of many, many, many times over thousands of years where astrology is finding its way back into mainstream culture.”
And yet, Nicholas is representative of astrology’s latest era of comeback. Nicholas, who has been studying astrology since she got her first reading at age 12, has made a name for herself with her “politically charged and deeply pragmatic” readings, describes Lenny Letter. She’s been profiled by the Los Angeles Times, and featured in Buzzfeed, The Cut, and Nylon. Her horoscopes come out on Mondays, but on any given day, you can find her reading Cardi B’s chart for the listeners of a hip radio show or explaining why the eclipse was bad news for Trump to Paper. More than that, she’s now training a generation of astrologers through affordable classes via her website. (One young woman I spoke with, who had taken her classes, called her “the be-all, end-all” of modern astrology.) Her interpretations are inextricably linked to social justice causes, a link that makes her uniquely suited to read for a generation that’s extremely concerned by the persistence of those nasty human inventions — racism and sexism and ableism and more — and are now looking for ways to live through the Trump Era. “Astrology is just my skill set. Social justice is my passion. So partly it’s just me,” Nicholas says of the way she links her star readings to politics. “But also, astrology is all about commenting on humans and the human experience. It's about our decisions and our movements and all of that. So to me I don’t understand, under what circumstances would your politics not come into your astrology?”
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She points to memes and Instagram and Twitter as not just a reason people seek out astrology or spirituality in the first place, but as a new, and very powerful avenue for finding it. “There's never been a public conversation in the same way as there is now about astrology,” she says. “But there's never been a public conversation about feminism or racism or about any of the things that many of us are now much more well versed in, simply because we have access to the information.”
Indeed, “astrology has been a part of every single culture, in every single time frame of humanity. It’s been very integral to humanity for as far back as we know,” Shah adds. Astrology in the West has its roots in Tetrobiblos, an ancient text written in Alexandria by the Greco-Roman mathematician Ptolemy around 100 AD. Ptolemy talked about astronomy as astrology, and vice versa. “During the time Ptolemy lived, this idea that the world is just the world didn’t exist. You couldn’t observe the world without also contemplating the spiritual significance of what it was that you were seeing,” Shah says.
At first, astrology was a precise predictive tool, used to explain the weather and the seasons and to tell exactly when misfortune or luck might visit you and how. After the fall of Rome begat the middle ages, the Arabs took over, translating Greek ideas into Arabic and making way for an understanding of astrology that jived with the concept of a monotheistic God. “When you look at Tetrobiblos, you see a lot of formulas: ‘If the Sun is here and Mars is here, this person is going to have a burn on their hand at 7 years old.’ But the Arabs looked at the sky, and said, ‘If your Sun is here or Mars is here, you might have problems with anger. So it might be good if you temper your anger.’ They put it into a context of a singular God who honored free will,” Shah says.
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Over the years since then, astrology has fallen in and out of favor, but always: It survives. It made a huge comeback, along with painting, music, liberal arts, during the Renaissance when the invention of the printing press popularized the practice through the spread of almanacs. Then came The Enlightenment, which gave rise to the idea that spirit is one thing and matter is another. This relegated astrology to unserious mumbo jumbo for the first time in our history, which is interesting considering how recent The Enlightenment was in the grand scheme of things. Nonetheless astrology lived on in the Spiritualism movement of the 19th century, and later still became a feature in New Age psychology circles in the 20th century.
The first astrological newspaper column started in 1930s Britain, written by R.H. Naylor in the Sunday Express, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It wasn’t unheard of for newspapers to hire astrologers to do star charts for famous people, just for fun. Naylor landed a regular column after seeming to predict King Edward the VIII’s abdication in a chart he did for the paper in honor of Princess Margaret’s birth in 1930. Then, in 1937, under pressure from editors to come up with a way to make his ‘scopes appeal to a mass audience, he came up with the idea of only reading the sun sign, which simplified things and birthed untold numbers of copycats.
Angel Eyedealism tells me that the majority of her clients today are millennial women, and this, of course, has everything to do with what’s written in the stars. It’s possible to cast charts for entire generations, entire cultures and nations, she explains. (In fact it’s a major part of astrological history that charts were once read for entire civilizations.) All you need is a time frame to calculate where the stars and planets were in order to glean insight.
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Millennials have some key similarities in their natal charts, thanks to certain slow-moving planets. “Neptune stays about 13 years in a sign, so it can influence an entire generation,” Angel says. “Neptune is confusion, delusion, and illusion. Most of your generation has Neptune in Capricorn, which is such a business-like sign. So, your generation sees spirituality as business and business as spiritual.” Many of us also have Uranus, the ruler of astrology and technology, in Capricorn as well (it stays about seven years in a sign). “So for [millennials], it seems like the most practical thing to do is consult an astrologist about business or other practical matters,” Angel says.
Many young women today are also looking to it because it’s a lived faith. It requires routine practice, and that brings a level of mindfulness that is “calming,” says Garlia Cornelia, a 34-year-old mom of two and a playwright in the suburbs of New York. She uses astrology, and the related practice of studying moon cycles in relation to her menstrual cycle, as a way to carve out a space for self-care and planning ahead. “You can plan your time upon your cycle and the stars,” she says. “There are times where you may need more downtime, and there are times where you will more creative and when you pay attention to those cycles, you’ll start to see patterns and learn to listen.”
Shah says this is an example of how astrology is about a deep yearning for a way to link the feminine to the divine. “Astrology and some of these other practices acknowledge that there is sacred feminine energy in the universe. They can be a way of honoring the sacred feminine.” In a world where all the major prophets are men, and where feminine chastity and obedience to the patriarchy are the main things celebrated by traditional religions, it’s obvious why millenial women — maybe the most powerful generation of women ever — are looking to see ourselves in our experiences of the divine.
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For Shea McElroy, a 23-year-old Capricorn from Santa Cruz, CA, astrology is less religion than a hugely important tool of self-exploration. She graduated from college this year, and she’s living at home with her parents as she charts (literally) her next step. “Last night, for example, I made an extended journal really mapping out my horoscope this week. It was like, on Monday Saturn was conjunct Mercury and the horoscope says this highlights what obstructs our path,” she says. “And on Tuesday, I had this breakthrough in therapy. It was something about what I really want and what gets in the way of me acting on it the way that I really want to, and I left my session with my therapist giving me a pat on the back saying, ‘You said something insightful and also really heard yourself say it.’ I literally experienced insight about something obstructing my path!”
If that doesn’t make you a believer…. Well, McElroy doesn’t care if you’re a believer, actually. “I don’t think astrology even asks you to believe in it,” she says. In fact, that’s part of the appeal. She realizes she is seeing patterns she wants to see, and that there are limitations to its usefulness. “Astrology just asks you to use it, to look at the present astrology, or your chart, and reflect on it — to take what works and leave the rest.”
This is perhaps the thing that’s most attractive to millennials: It’s all about you. “The practice is very much based on self-trust and self-authority,” Shah says. “It helps us trust ourselves, not a religious authority, but something that is personally meaningful to us.”
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Of course, millennials are often derided as “self-obsessed,” but don’t get it twisted: Self-obsessed does not necessarily mean selfish. One also has to remember that millennials have been let down over and over again: We were told we were post-racial and post-feminism; that equality had been reached, and yet we all experience racism and sexism constantly. And when we speak about it online, or attempt to organize for change, we’re derided as “whiners” or “snowflakes” and told to shut up and stop complaining. We were told to work hard and we’d be rewarded, and instead we graduated into a wrecked economy, enormous debt, and an ever-more unstable world. It’s no wonder we want to be able to trust some deep wisdom within ourselves. We can’t trust anyone else.
Then again, this could also just be my personal trust issues talking, my moon in Scorpio pointing it’s paranoid stinger once again. Who knows? We are all just a bunch of complicated people, with conflicting beliefs and mysterious tendencies — we are made out of stardust ourselves, after all — living on this planet, trying to figure out how we’re going to get through another revolution around the sun.
All I can say for certain is that I walked out of my reading with Angel feeling happier, lighter than I’ve felt in ages. It’s not like Angel offered any specific guidance on what I should do to extinguish the current sources of doom in my life — my partner’s student loan debt, the #GOPTaxScam, my job security in the midst of a series of pivots to video, Nazi resurgence, climate change, #MeToo, and so on — but the whole exercise made me feel seen, as though there is something out there to explain why I am the way I am, and what role I’m destined to play in this cosmic farce. That alone is far more comforting than someone telling me to come back down to Planet Earth.

Ready to launch into the new year but not sure where to start? Take a cue from the stars and let your horoscope guide you. 'Scope the rest of your year here.
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