Astrology is having a moment. Websites such as The Cut and Broadly say traffic to their horoscope pages has grown “exponentially”, while it’s becoming increasingly likely to see someone’s star sign in their Twitter bio or used as an excuse as to why they couldn’t make drinks last week, why is it happening?
Blame the rise of astrology apps, delivering on-demand information regarding eclipses, oppositions and retrogrades. There are 10,600 to choose from, according to analytics platform App Annie, such as Co-Star, which uses NASA data along with professional astrologers to offer readings as well as allowing users to check their compatibility with their friends and partners.
Or there’s Horoscope and Tarot which provides a daily tarot reading and several games. In the US alone, the online astrology market is expected to be worth $200 million, and you can believe that it's still rising.
Ross Clark, founder and CEO of the app Sanctuary, believes millennials and Gen Z-ers are turning to astrology thanks to the current climates of chaos and disorder, whether in politics, the environment or even technology. “All of this combines to produce lots of turmoil and anxiety. Astrology provides a system to analyse and explore both yourself and the world around you,” he explains.
Amid the millennial self-care trend, astrology is back. But now, the pseudoscience isn’t as much of a taboo as it used to be. It’s been embraced by young people, who jokingly ascribe the minor inconveniences of life — a delayed train, a broken laptop — to Mercury’s retrograde.
We know that Pisces are sensitive and Leos are self-involved and Geminis are kind of the worst. We follow astrology podcasts like “Stars Like Us,” buy zodiac-themed candles and fragrances and crystals and share astrology memes from Instagram accounts such as Drunk Astrology and Not All Geminis.
How Did It Get So Popular?
In early 2018, publications like The Guardian, The Atlantic and New York Times started reporting on a millennial obsession with astrology, pointing to 90s nostalgia, a need for reassurance during uncertain times and a desire for alternative systems among women and queer folk. But the astrology boom was already in motion before then.
AI-based astrology app Co-Star had launched the year prior, and popular online duo Astro Poets started their account at the tail-end of 2016. Meme accounts like @notallgeminis and @astromemequeen had amassed thousands of followers by 2018, with most online mags already picking up the women's print mag mantle of a horoscope section.
A few months ago, Instagram launched a ‘zodiac filter’ in which a neon star sign symbol appears on your cheek. There are no longer a few prominent astro meme accounts, but thousands, some of which are pretty vague.
All of this is fun obviously (I follow and enjoy a lot of these accounts) – but what’s it got to do with the planets?
Roy Gillett, president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, and has been a practising astrologer for the past 40 years. He says he has noticed an uptake in millennials turning not only to sun signs but also seeking out a deeper understanding of the science on which the system is based.
“I think what’s happened to people in their late teens and 20s, and younger people even more so, is a sense of betrayal by conventional knowledge,” he explains. “I know that’s a strong statement to make, but if you think about the circumstances that a person at university finds themselves in right now, compared with me when I was at university or even my children… There is a lack of values everywhere you look. The things you relied on don’t seem to be reliable. In that sort of culture, you look for something underpinning everything.” he says.
It might be that Millennials are more comfortable living in the borderlands between scepticism and belief because they’ve spent so much of their lives online, in another space that is real and unreal at the same time. That so many people find astrology meaningful is a reminder that something doesn’t have to be real to feel true.
The rise of astrology has been a huge part of meme culture, for the large part of it but there has been a certain part of it that remains true to its essence. It doesn't look like the movement is going come to a halt anytime soon, and the rise of astrology apps has just about begun.