When aspiring author Claire* first got into astrology, it was a casual hobby. Like so many of us, she was teaching herself to read her natal chart for inspiration and insight. But suddenly, she hit a wall: She hadn’t been able to find any evidence in her chart that a writing career was in the stars, and she was feeling hopeless about pursuing an ambition she’d held since childhood. That’s when she decided to seek out my help. “If something isn’t reflected in my chart, does that mean it isn’t meant for me?” she wondered.
She wasn’t my only client to ask something like this. I’ve been a professional astrologer since 2016, but recently, instead of giving chart readings, I've been spending most of my client sessions managing anxieties about misinformed astrology interpretations people had found online. Genuine fear about Saturn returns, Mercury retrogrades, and eclipses were starting to become the norm. I became an astrologer because I wanted to help others empower themselves. But time and time again, I’ve come to see the practice have the opposite effect.
So, in 2021, I finally quit.
I’m not against looking for something bigger than oneself. For over 2,000 years, people have turned to astrology for guidance. It’s believed that the map of the sky based on the moment you’re born contains insights into your talents, struggles, soul’s purpose, and more. Sun sign horoscopes, meanwhile, have been mainstream since the 1930s, and remain a daily ritual for many: One in five Canadians paid attention to astrology. The uncertainty of the last few years has only increased our pull towards these types of easy answers. In 2020, Google searches for “astrology” hit a peak.
The uncertainty of the last few years has only increased our pull towards these types of easy answers. In 2020, Google searches for “astrology” hit a peak.
Becoming your own astrologer is also easier than ever. From magazines to memes, astrological advice is all around, guiding everything from self-care tips to gift guides based on your zodiac sign. Capricorn has become shorthand for domineering, Scorpio for vindictive. And if I have to hear one more quip about someone not dating someone because she’s a Gemini…
Our hunger for short, snappy, viral content — not to mention access to numerous apps and websites where you can cast your natal chart for free, like Co-Star and Astrodienst — has fuelled astrology’s simplification. Celebrities like Taylor Swift (Sagittarius), Kendall Jenner (Scorpio), and Rihanna (Pisces) have proudly embraced their signs as extensions of their personalities. Online, you can fall down a rabbit hole of blogs, podcasts, and TikToks, all dedicated to astrology. (Wondering how your star sign compares to a One Direction song, or your favorite celeb’s birth chart? It’s all there.) This ubiquity is both a blessing and curse, because much of what’s out there often lacks deeper context, which means those who lean on it too casually leave themselves open to suggestions that may not be helpful at all.
There should be a disclaimer on every horoscope: Astrology is not the only influence on your life. But it’s easy to believe otherwise, especially when you’re feeling caught in a spiral of events, and ready to put total faith in a higher power or spiritual practice. Even if you’re not into organized religion, astrology can offer an alternative, an opportunity to be witness to yourself, to feel like you’re here, now, for a reason. That can feel like a homecoming of sorts in an era of rising debts, unsustainable housing costs, and technological alienation. It’s also something to bond over, bringing friends (and even strangers) closer because of perceived shared traits and characteristics.
But it’s also potentially destructive.
I’ve heard from people who became worried their marriages were doomed because they planned their weddings under "bad" planetary conditions. Or clients who accepted new job offers while Mercury was retrograde, and then, rather than celebrating, obsessed over the fear that everything would fall through the cracks as a result. These are of course severe cases, but the endgame is the same: They are stressed out. Unfortunately, astrology can actually make life feel even more out of control for someone who’s already feeling shaky. We can’t stop the motion of the planets, and astrological predictions are not always benevolent, leading some to feel as though disaster could strike at any moment.
Astrology can make life feel even more out of control for someone who’s already feeling shaky...Astrological predictions are not always benevolent, leading some to feel as though disaster could strike at any moment.
This line of work demands compassion — it’s expected people will come with challenging questions. But what happens when the tool you’re using to help people ends up being part of the issue? Not everyone is looking for predictions, but it’s hard to avoid hearing them. The practice is full of fatalistic language. I once worked with a client whose confidence had become eroded by what she’d read about herself. She struggled with indecision, and astrology’s penchant for personality analyses had led her to believe she would always be stuck between ideas, never able to commit to anything.
The problem here was that astrology was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than helping her grow, it was making her feel stuck. You don’t need to be a fly on my wall to hear these things for yourself. Sites like Reddit, Twitter, and Quora host threads where people are looking for help after becoming obsessively worried about astrology.
Even now that I’m focusing my energy elsewhere, I still believe astrology can be a supportive tool. I’ve seen proof of that with friends and clients who have gotten what I did out of astrology: Something that helped them feel affirmed, aligned, and validated. I still remember how I felt after my first chart reading in my mid-20s. It was with an astrologer whose work I’d followed for a long time. When I met him one-on-one for a private reading, I was feeling pretty lost. But that reading sparked something within me: I was able to see into myself in a way I hadn’t been able to before. Astrology might not teach you anything you don’t already know about yourself. Instead, it helps you to embrace and appreciate more of who you are — flaws and all. But it’s not quite enough for me to counterbalance the number of people who seem to be trading one anxiety for another here.
There are other ways I can empower and validate people without sending them through the muddy, contradictory waters of astrology. We can’t control every aspect of our lives, but we can choose to develop our intuition, confidence, and decision-making skills to navigate life’s ups and downs. I’ve always maintained that the best way to predict the future is by looking at what you’re doing right now. The actions you’re taking today influence your life’s direction — not the planets. And you don’t need me to read your chart to tell you that.
*Name has been changed