It’s Written in the Stars…

… or is it?

This post is going to be all about my opinions on horoscopes, so if you feel particularly attached to the idea that astrology is valid in any way, I would advise you not to read any further.

Have they gone? Alright then.

HOROSCOPES ARE BULLSHIT.

Horoscopes are nothing but utter nonsense, made up by people who have no more of a spiritual connection to the stars as I do to the bits of lint I sometimes find in my coat pocket. It has been proven, time and time again, that astrologically-derived advice is completely unfounded, and written in a generalised-enough way to appeal to the gullible masses. The vast majority of people accept this.

And yet, even amongst the ‘non-believers’, there will still be somebody who flips to the back pages of the newspaper to see if their moon has reached Uranus yet. There will be somebody who clicks that Facebook horoscope link “just out of curiosity”. There will be somebody who, despite proclaiming their cynicism towards anything ‘psychic’, will read something telling them that their recent stroke of good fortune was because of the Venus-Pluto conjunction, and feel just a little tingle of belief. Come on, be real. You didn’t get that promotion because Jupiter was extra shiny, you got it because you earned it.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the whole process fascinating. I love reading the predictions of some self-declared mystic, but only in the same way that I enjoy learning about Egyptian gods, or alien conspiracy theories. It’s all lies, but at least some of those lies are entertaining. However, if you try to convince me that my personality is caused by a date, or that my actions in life are determined by a bunch of planets, I will probably struggle to take you seriously. You have as much of a chance at persuading me that my life is directed by the breeding patterns of slugs because, like I said, astrology is not just a sham, it’s a proven sham.

Ophiuchus
Ophiuchus, the 13th sign.

People are easily convinced by horoscopes due to the Barnum Effect, a phenomenon whereby somebody will believe that a description has been specifically personalised to their individual qualities, even when it’s actually pretty general. The illusionist Derren Brown did an experiment to show how easy it was to convince people that he had psychic abilities, despite his ‘readings’ being incredibly non-specific. Plus, horoscopes are usually, on balance, pretty positive – they will point out the good characteristics of a person, and describe the promising things that are ahead. Even a person’s faults will be given a positive or reassuring spin. For instance, being unambitious may be disguised in horoscope-jargon as something like “easily contented with the path they’re on”. This makes it much easier to accept. I guarantee, if you look up horoscopes right now, and click on any star sign, you will find something that you can attribute to your own personality and/or current situation in life.

Above all, the thing I find most interesting about horoscopes is that, even by non-sceptics’ standards, it’s all wrong. You might be reading this thinking you’re a Leo or a Virgo or a Taurus but, chances are, you might not be – because there are actually 13 star signs. The extra one, Ophiuchus, falls between 29th November and 17th December, causing all the others to shift slightly. If you want to find out which sign you really are (“just out of curiosity”, obviously), have a look at this table of revised dates:

Aries: 18th April – 13th May

Taurus: 13th May – 21 June

Gemini: 21 June – 20th July

Cancer: 20th July – 10th August

Leo: 10th August – 16th September

Virgo: 16th September – 30th October

Libra: 30th October – 23rd November

Scorpio: 23rd November – 29th November

Ophiuchus: 29th November – 17th December

Sagittarius: 17th December – 20th January

Capricorn: 20th January – 16th February

Aquarius: 16th February – 11th March

Pisces: 11th March – 18th April

And if you still needed convincing that astrology is totally unfounded, go check the prediction for your ‘new’ sign. It’ll be just as vague as your original one.

Having said all this, I do understand why star signs are still relevant in the modern day. I guess people still feel attached to them because they want to believe that something is giving their life direction, rather than accepting the reality that we’re all hurtling through time and space with no obvious purpose. And that’s perfectly understandable. However, to me, they’re just a bit of fun.

Then again, maybe this is just my pessimistic Sagittarius attitude shining through.

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