As interest in religion among young people declines, an explosion of astrology signifies a yearning for meaning and purpose
30 Noviembre 2017 12:32
‘What the resurgence of interest in astrology says to me is that this is a good time for self-reflection,’ says Banu Guler, Brooklyn-based co-founder of the newly-launched Co-Star app, ‘It’s a way of making sense of the world. I don’t think letting it dictate your life is how most people are coming at it. Broadly, it’s a way of giving you a sense of meaning and purpose.’ Guler and her two friends, Ben Weitzman and Anna Kopp, who all previously worked in the fashion industry in New York, decided to create an astrology app because of its popularity in the cosmopolitan city. During the first week Co-Star launched, the app crashed three times because demand was so high. ‘Everyone in New York is into astrology,’ she argues, ‘Often what we’ll talk about with friends and people in the media is our star signs.’
Hoping to get away from the genericness of magazine horoscopes, Guler and her fellow creatives poured over astrology textbooks and uploaded their findings onto an AI programme. Although, like with God, there is no definitive scientific proof of astrology’s accuracy, Guler says this is exactly why millennials are enticed by the practice. Well, that and these dystopian Trumpian times. ‘It’s very different from the way we usually work and live and date, where everything is hyper-mediated and rational,’ she says. ‘There is a belief vacuum: we go from work to a bar to dinner and a date, with no semblance of meaning. Astrology is a way of putting yourself in the context of thousands of years of history and the universe. And ever since Donald Trump’s election the world has gone insane and people want solace.’
We’re living in a religious wasteland, apparently. Younger generations are moving away from traditional religion in their droves. The Catholic Church, for example, has expressed grave concern for their dwindling numbers and the future of their congregations. But it’s not ‘faith’, necessarily, that so-called millennials are turning their back on, because interest in spirituality and astrology is booming. An uptick in attraction to astrology is perhaps the most noteable swing towards the cosmic; over half of young people in America believe astrology is a science, compared with eight per cent in China, according to a study. Horoscope websites, apps and New Age publications see flocks of ‘planetphiles’ visiting their servers everyday. What’s behind this resurgence? Searching for ‘meaning’, comfort - and perhaps, like Guler suggests, even Donald Trump.
Inevitably, there will be those whose eyes will roll at the mere mention of astrology. And, admittedly, I can be one of those people. However, I think the crux of the issue is not whether you believe in astrology, or whether it is a ‘real’, tangible way to map out your life, but exploring why, now, more and more young people are investing time, not to mention money, in the practice. Does it say something more about a yearning for something bigger than ourselves? Guler rightly points out that heightened inclinations towards New Age and astrological rituals and practices tends to happen during times of decreased interest in religion. The divine, the cosmic, the otherworldly as an antidote to the seemingly vast meaningless of existence. ‘People want to feel like there’s more to life than just standing upright,’ Guler adds.
Marion Williamson, former editor of Prediction magazine and author of The Little Book of Astrology, tends to agree. She points out that a resurgence of the New Age is nothing new, and that historical periods of anxiety have tended to reignite its passion. ‘Traditionally when people lose faith in humanity, astrology peaks. It’s always been popular during wartime, there was a huge explosion of interest in the 60s as a reaction to the Vietnam War. The Great Depression in the 30s saw a big rise in interest for the same reasons.’ So, perhaps because politically the world is starting to resemble a landmine of excrement, we can’t afford to buy houses and climate change is eating our planet, young people are understandably hoping the stars will somehow align.
However, for Kimberly Dewhirst, creator of online spirit and astrology publication Star Sign Style, where fashion meets the galaxy, looking to the stars and planets as a stand-in for religion and faith mischaracterises the practice. She says, from her perspective, that astrology is a practical tool rather than something that is a barometer for morality. ‘You may gain self awareness but it doesn't help solve problems. Astrology isn’t spirituality but an interpretation of situations.’ Yet it does seem like the two have become intertwined as astrology’s popularity has rocketed. Searching for an omnipresent sense of being has increasingly become about the self; looking back into ourselves, exploring our own personal journeys as a signifier of humanity. In other words, finding God-like presence is all about discovering our ‘true selves’. The self-care, self-help, self-fulfillment craze is indicative of this.
What is striking at first glance is how female-dominated these practices are. Vice’s women’s channel Broadly posts a daily horoscope, for example, whereas the central publication doesn’t. Nearly every popular horoscope website is run by women, and tailored to a female audience. And it’s not just strictly astrology. Cosmic fashion, jewellery, books, apps that generally encapsulate the ‘divine feminine’ are incredibly on trend right now. Healing crystals, spices, herbs, and candles are sold in the women’s department of shops as mainstream as Urban Outfitters. The idea that the mystical speaks to female power is being shaped and reinforced all the time. ‘Astrology has been viewed as a more “feminine” practice as it’s often lumped in with the more intuitive arts, such as witchcraft, healing and psychic phenomena,’ Williamson says, ‘I do think generally that when it comes to having a passing interest in astrology, women are more likely to give it a chance than men.’
A Pew Research study found that American women are more likely to be religious than men, and that women globally are generally more devout (even though men tend to have a higher commitment in strictly religious communities). While it would be a stretch to make direct comparisons to religious patterns and that of astrology, it could be argued that there is some correlation. ‘Astrologers have a “woo-woo” reputation, but it’s less about being a religion and more about common consciousness,’ Dewhirst argues, and therefore it’s a way of giving solace to a generation that perhaps feels somewhat apprehensive about the future. Or, maybe, as a friend put it to me eloquently the other day: ‘Who gives a fuck if young people are looking for religion or not? We’re all screwed anyway.’