It's often said that a classic Capricorn trait is to scoff at astrology. The sea goat, born between December 22 and January 20, is apparently too pragmatic and rooted in the material world to understand a misty art involving the stars.
But I have an alternate theory. Maybe Capricorns have a reputation for being zodiac sceptics because the people born under this sign — including me — feel so misrepresented, even maligned, by our horoscopes, which never make being a Capricorn seem, well, all that fun. And astrology can be a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t like to selectively zero in on the parts of an astrological profile that resonate most, while conveniently ignoring the rest? It's an exercise in introspection — on who you think you are, who you want to be, and who you're afraid you might be. It’s no wonder that countless people seem to embrace their sign as a point of pride, frequently noting that they're such an Aries or the ultimate Scorpio. But Capricorns? It's not a sign people tend to embrace — unless they’re really into being workaholics, or worse.
Let’s not forget that the stereotypical Capricorn is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, except boring. Wealth and status are everything, and Capricorns have no emotion other than feeling pleased at accruing more wealth and status, or enraged at losing them. It pains me to acknowledge that Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is in fact a Capricorn. What a sick, cosmic joke.
Somehow, the entire world seems to be in on the joke, though, and has run with this anti-Capricorn narrative. According to Monster.com, for one example, good jobs for Capricorns include: CEO, human resources manager, business analyst, intelligence analyst, etc. On the other hand, for Pisces, there are suggestions like filmmaker, motion graphics designer, 3D artist, wedding photographer. Seems unfair! As a Capricorn, I would never be a SheEO, nor work as an intelligence analyst. Though not a Pisces, I am an artiste.
Worse, Co-Star's career suggestions for us sea-goats include "Sisyphus" and "elementary school hall monitor," burns so savage that I have to respect them. This is the other thing: If a horoscope doesn't go hard on portraying Capricorns as serial killers in designer clothing, it just portrays us as the world's dullest, most straight-laced humans: loyal, responsible — the kind of person who values order and "tradition," loving nothing more than a long day of hard work. Basically, the stars want us to know we're the sidekick, not the main character, in our own lives.
I, for one, am tired of it. It's time to set the record straight about what Capricorns are — and what we aren’t.
Lindsey*, born on December 23, is a Capricorn who embraces being "lazy" — what some would argue is a Cap cardinal sin. "I'm currently unemployed and enjoying doing nothing while my husband works full-time remotely for a tech company," she says.
"I honestly enjoy being lazy so much. It’s not like I don’t know how to work hard — much of my career has been spent in the restaurant industry, where it was normal to work 50 to 70 hours a week," she continues. "But if no one is forcing me to work, I’m fine watching YouTube all day. My husband makes enough money to support us, and we don’t have any children or debt, so I don’t know if or when I’ll get a job. I don’t have to budget, but I also don’t spend a lot of money, except on food." I personally find Lindsey's outlook on life very inspiring and wish nothing but more laziness for her future.
Julia was born on December 28, and also feels misrepresented by her astrological archetype. "I typically hear [that Capricorns are] workaholics or leaders," she says. "I've also heard ‘emotionless’ and ‘boring’ or ‘overly consistent,’ which is not true! I definitely can say that in circumstances where I feel like I'm not supposed to show emotions, I definitely suppress them — BUT I STILL FEEL THEM!"
"I am super loyal, but only when I feel it's deserved," she adds. "If someone does me wrong and it's ‘final straw material,’ I can cut them off and never talk to them again quicker than most people."
Despite our reputation for being unemotional, "cutting people off" is something I hear a lot of Caps say they do, and something I've done a lot in my life, too. Breanna Davis, a social editor at Refinery29, was born on January 12 and is a triple Cap — as in, Capricorn sun, moon, and rising. "It takes nothing for me to block someone's number immediately," she says. Blocking is a rare last-resort move for some, a lifestyle for others (aka Capricorns).
I tell Davis that I sometimes worry about being too severe with people. "That's something I talked to my therapist about — I've told her how easily I cut people off," she replies. "And she used the same word: severe. She was like, Why does it have to be that severe?"
But Capricorns are constantly curating who is and isn't in their inner circle. If you're out, you're out. No stragglers. And it likely contributes to the Cap reputation of being cold and reserved. "If we're not around people we're super-comfortable with, the way we express our emotions is very calm. Inside, we're going crazy. But on the outside, it's very contained," Davis says.
"I will never forget, I was on the waiting list to get into my college, and I had to do an interview with the admissions lady," she recalls. "She came in at the end of the interview and on the spot was like, 'We'd like to offer you admission to the school.' And I just sat there with a blank face. I was like, 'Oh, okay.' And my mom hit me and said, 'You got in!' And then I said, 'Thank you so much.'"
Last week a friend sent me this video of a man looking completely deadpan on a rollercoaster, saying to me, "I died at that tweet thinking about you." I replied, "I just don't think my feelings/joy are anyone else's business."
It's not that Caps are truly as cold as the season in which we entered this world — it's that the world is really big, and our goal in life is to protect the tiny sphere of light where we can find real nourishment. Everything and everyone else is irrelevant.
"It's being high maintenance, but people take that in a negative way — like, you can be high maintenance spiritually," Davis says.
Sara Tan, Refinery29's beauty director, was born on January 6, and feels similarly disconnected from the mainstream Capricorn image. "They always say that we're assholes, or we're emotionless. So savage. And that's the complete opposite of who I am," she says.
And yet, Tan mentions Renata, Laura Dern's character in Big Little Lies. "She's ball-busting, wears a lot of power suits, makes a lot of money," she says. "At an event, I got to interview Laura Dern. I was like, 'By the way, Renata has to be a Capricorn, right?' And she was like, 'I definitely was thinking that in my head when I was playing her role.'"
Of course Dern was, because Renata was emblematic of a Capricorn’s persistent image — but being the embodiment of a girlboss is increasingly likely to be seen as an insult rather than a compliment. It's partly why Caps need a rebranding. "Obviously I work hard and I like to get paid, but it's not everything I do. I'm not a penny-pincher, I'm not stingy," says Tan, then asks: "But also, if [Capricorns] all were really good with money and obsessed with money, wouldn't we all be in finance?"
This question gets to the heart of why "being good with money" is actually a pretty weird attribute for a zodiac sign. It's not a personality trait. It's an outward-facing skill that people might have a natural tendency for or not — mainly, though, it's something people learn, not something they are.
Tan, in typical Capricorn fashion, expresses some disbelief around the whole concept of astrology, thinking about a friend who's also a Cap. "We're such different people. So there's just, like, no way that all of us Capricorns are the same," she muses. Still, I ask her what she admires most about her friend that is also a Capricorn characteristic.
“If she doesn't like someone or if she feels that the relationship is done,” Tan says, “she will put her foot down and say no — she'll just walk away from it. The discerning trait of a Capricorn is something I've always admired in her."
As the astrological poster children for capitalism and corporate culture, Capricorns seem to embody the idea that hard work and wealth are directly related. This would be depressing if there weren’t more to focus on, like the deliberate, ruminating nature of our personalities, which have the power to subvert all the stereotypes.
"The Capricorn path is purposeful, intentional and growth-orientated," says Sade the Astrology Vixen, an astrologer based in London. "On a whim, pop astrology blankets these qualities as 'success hungry.'" But in fact, she says, this sign is about "moving with integrity."
She also notes that various combinations of Cap sun with moon and rising signs can be very distinct from one another. "For example, if you have a water rising or moon, you're very sensitive in competitive environments, so being money-obsessed is probably at the bottom of the list," she says. "If you add the fire element into the chart, passion and a sense of adventure is needed to light up their world. Experience over money is the mantra. Throw in a dash of air placements, and you'll find that a linear process isn't the main priority. Air signs sometimes take the 'chaotic' route to get the job done — no shade."
"Capricorns see life as an investment, which requires a strategy," she says. "This doesn't make them cold, per se, it just helps give their life enough structure and distance to see the mechanics of the bigger picture. The discerning Capricorn are able to teach us the fine art of seeing our time and effort as a valuable and priceless resource."
Alice Sparkly Kat is an astrologer and author of Postcolonial Astrology. They explain the mythological basis of the sign, which paints a darker but more interesting picture of Capricorn than the way we're typically depicted. "The ruler of Capricorn is Saturn," Sparkly Kat says. "We think of [the Greek god] Saturn more as an old man now. We think, Oh, age — that must bring power and authority. That's why Capricorns get this rigid label. But actually, Saturn is aging. So it's about the growth of power and the loss of power, too. In mythology, he usurped his father, and then he was usurped by his son, Jupiter. Saturn is about this generational conflict."
"The other ruler of Capricorn, the exaltation ruler, would be Mars. You have the two malefics in astrology doing well in Capricorn," they continue. In astrology, malefics refer to planets that tend to have a difficult influence on your life. The benefic planets are Jupiter and Venus. "Benefics go back to the concept of 'benefactor.' They usually represent politicians, people who have a lot of power, wealth, and people who design what the social norms are," Sparkly Kat says. "So the malefics — they represent rebellion."
Capricorn and "rebellion" aren't two words you usually hear together. But far from being the reliable rule abiders, Sparkly Kat contends that this sign meditates on which rules ought to be overturned. It's not about having power and authority necessarily, but being concerned and interested in the nature of those things. "I think we project a lot of father archetypes onto Capricorns. But that's not the point of the father in the [Saturn] story," they say. "The point of the father in the story is recognising the generational conflict. There is this feeling of, I'm looking at my parents, trying to figure out what I want to change."
"That's why [the sign] is associated with gods like Pan," they say. "But then, later, Satan. It's this rebel label. I would call Capricorn a little goth. You're rebelling, but it's this kind of quiet or sad way of doing it."
There's often an existential heaviness to Capricorns. We are saturnine people. So rather than looking to Jeff Bezos as an exemplar of the sign, I propose someone more like Hayao Miyazaki, the director behind many of Studio Ghibli's films, or at least the internet's narrative of him. Aesthetically, the movies are dazzlingly colourful and charming, and you might assume that the creator of such fairytale landscapes is a cheerful, carefree optimist. You would be wrong:
There is in fact nothing contradictory about a Capricorn being unmaterialistic, or being more interested in redistributing wealth than hoarding it for themselves. "Most Capricorns I know are honestly people who are like, You know what? I decided cleanliness is rooted to white supremacy, and then not shower for a month," Sparkly Kat says. "I feel like they're pretty hardcore about their beliefs. That's how I see Capricorns. There is a seriousness to that kind of decision — but it's also funny, too."
It turns out, we're not a more boring version of Patrick Bateman or even of Sisyphus. We're a more boring version of Saturn, the sad old goth god who devoured his own son. Having realised that, what I feel now more than anything else is... that I have shared too much about myself. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. If you liked it, e-Transfer me.
*Name has been changed to protect identity