Opinion

The enduring appeal of astrology in the age of algorithms

By Bre Graham

Oct 3, 2018

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Visual Cultures

Oct 3, 2018

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At some point in the nineteen-eighties, my mum had an astrology phase. She spent a few months studying stars, planets and the sky, but all that is left thirty years later are some books and an amazing set of moon shaped earrings. So, growing up my house had bookshelves filled with books titled things like ‘Planets in Composite’ and ‘Star Signs for Lovers’ and when my brother and I fought it was thought to be because of our matching fire signs. These books had pages that I poured over as I highlighted all the Leo traits I possessed before at around age ten, I found my birth chart that a family friend had bound in gold starred pages, which detailed how the stars would shape my life. Lots of things even then felt true, the complexities of personality and layers of what I love were written out in a way that I felt like I had dictated them myself.

Astrology, star signs and asking ‘when’s your birthday’ on first dates have come to define parts of who I am. I have my mum’s old star charts hanging in my living room and over lingering dinners friends and I discuss our sun, moon and rising signs. It was only just a few years ago that I felt weird knowing what my ‘moon sign’ was and how it affected aspects of my life. But these days with everyone’s Instagram feeds full of ‘star sign bingos’ and iconic @notallgeminis memes, it seems that astrology isn’t only on the rise, but at the core of our internet identities.

Originating way back in 3000 BC somewhere in Mesopotamia, astrology’s appeal has never stopped enduring in places like India where they have their own form of astrology that rules over everything from marriages to moving home. But how and why did it shift from that to its modern millennial appeal where every star sign has its own meme page? Did it start with fashion? Sometimes I think so. In a world where we love to personalise everything from our bags to our phones, owning things emblazoned with our horoscope seems like just another facet of it. Vetements horoscope t-shirts have sold out in every sign, Charlotte Olympia made Aries adorned slippers and it now feels like every online jewellery brand has a charm or pendant in the shapes of all twelve zodiac signs.

So, what is it that artists and designers are drawn to in astrology? I asked illustrator Agustina Basile why she is inspired by it in her lush drawings. “I love that each sign tells a specific story and has its own personality, and stories are what I want to reflect in all my illustrations. The planets, houses and degrees all influence the unique behaviour of the signs within an astral chart, and I like that the study of my own chart makes me identify more with certain signs than others when I’m drawing.” And obviously, that’s the irony of it all. That in our bid to personalise everything in our lives through highly individualised algorithms, we’ve overlooked the possibility that we might just be categorising ourselves into one of twelve vague and general star signs. I see that and I can acknowledge the paradox, but it doesn’t change that I just like reading my horoscope because of how it makes me feel.

It seems that every website, magazine and newspaper have horoscopes sections that for years have been educating us about Saturn returns and moon cycles as a little page of respite amongst news and gossip. If I look back at the times in my life when I’ve read horoscopes religiously or pulled out my gold gilded birth chart book, they have been times when I have felt lost and when any guidance or advice would have been needed. I spoke to my favourite horoscope writer Madame Clairevoyant whose horoscopes for NY Mag’s The Cut are some of the most beautiful pieces of prose published on the internet. I asked her what she thinks people get out of reading her weekly horoscopes. “Many of us can feel ourselves being constantly acted upon by forces bigger than ourselves—whether that’s economic forces like low wages and student debt, or whether it’s the vast structures of misogyny in the world. Astrology allows us to look to something that’s bigger than ourselves, but that doesn’t have the same kind of heaviness or history of oppression. Feeling connected to an astrological sign can be just for you, without a ‘purpose’ other than to understand yourself and how to live in the world. For me, horoscopes are most meaningful as a way to create space for holding and experiencing our emotions. And ultimately, it’s okay to take what resonates with you, and leave behind what doesn’t.”

I’m not surprised that I like Madame Clairevoyant’s sentiment about this, I thank her for her thoughts and choose not to tell her that I have screenshots of all her Leo readings saved in my phone for when I need them most. It leaves me wondering that what if in our modern absence of religion we are all just trying to find comfort amongst the chaos of the world by identifying with a star sign and in the hope that planets will shift in our favour. I don’t dwell on it for too long though, (maybe that’s my dreamy Aquarius moon) so I follow @astromemequeen and continue to save meditative minutes every week to read my horoscope.

The enduring appeal of astrology in the age of algorithms


By Bre Graham

Oct 3, 2018

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Opinion

What an astrologer thinks about Bumble’s zodiac sign filters

By Tahmina Begum

Feb 18, 2019

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Technology

Feb 18, 2019

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“So what’s your star sign?” was a question I overheard at a pub recently. Yet it wasn’t one I rolled my eyes at, if anything I was just eavesdropping in case he said the words Gemini. So when Bumble announced that you are now able to filter your matches via your favourite star signs, I had to question how interlinked astrology, identity and dating had become.

Being a bruja (and putting it into your bio), cleansing your space with some sage, having crystals in your bag and believing in the stars all used to be seen as ‘new age’. It was for those on the fringe of society, who I envision always wearing tie-dye print, ra-ra skirts and speaking about ‘energy’.

But today, astrology meme accounts and horoscope pages have become normalised. Oh she’s such a Virgo rings a certain kind of bell. It’s similar to when a date is described as either a “fox” or a “mouse”. You know exactly what that means.

Though not a huge fan of dating apps, I’ve grown up in a generation where the key way to meet people is online and with the rise in popularity of finding out what your sun, moon and rising sign means, it’s no wonder dating apps are giving the option to vet future dates via the signs you’re supposed to align best with. We live in an era of ‘the identity’, so what’s better than finding out what fate has in store for you? With ‘ghosting, ‘orbiting’ and the illusion of limitless options when dating online being a blessing and curse, surely choosing who you’re supposed to be drawn to can cut to what you’re supposed to be looking for?

While understanding how to search for who you’re supposed to be romantically compatible with can be fun, astrologer Alicia J. Lochard actually finds dating apps that allow daters to filter via zodiac signs rather “useless” as “relationship astrology is incredibly complex and just filtering potential matches based on the sun sign alone is really useless in my opinion”.

On the one hand, though general astrological websites can tell you which sign you’re supposed to be more compatible with, they are not built for nuisance, nor are the infrastructures behind dating apps and websites. “Some apps I know take into consideration the entire birth chart, but from what I have seen even those tend to lack a solid analysis to help folks who aren’t as familiar with astrology,” explains Lochard. It’s like saying you don’t eat meat on Hinge, there are so many different diets so that could also mean anything.

By filtering via one’s zodiac sign, the experience can also be rather limiting as there’s no such thing as a bad star sign, it’s just the stereotypes behind each sign. This also gives into false hope as you pick who you think will be best suited for you instead of experimenting within your dating life. Illustrator Holly Gorne, who has also been reading tarot for ten years and in the past dabbled in dating apps also thinks we should be looking into our dating cycles more than looking for a certain partner. “I love astrology but don’t take it very seriously, especially when dating. I have, however, noticed a pattern in signs I’m really compatible with. I guess it comes down to whether or not I’m trying to repeat those patterns.”

Astrologer Lochard agrees, explaining that “When it comes to dating, I think astrology is best used to help someone learn more about their own romantic needs and patterns rather than a potential partner,”. She also adds that after partners get to know each other and their mutual attraction and interests, it may then make sense for them to sit down with an astrologer who can help them figure out how they can have the most harmonious relationship possible.

Whether you’re a Scorpio lover, attracted to an Aquarius or enjoy a Capricorn’s energy, what it really ultimately comes down to is the communication, commitment and honesty between whatever relationship (or situationship) you’re in. What you read about which signs you should go with may ring true to you, but in opposition to Bumble’s latest stance, it may not be what’s destined for you.

What an astrologer thinks about Bumble’s zodiac sign filters


By Tahmina Begum

Feb 18, 2019

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