Column: The science of astrology


Samantha Joslin

Features editor

In innumerable other fields, scorning a topic on which you know very little would be considered ignorance. For astrology, it’s the norm.

Without taking the time to do minimal research, people grasp the base concept that stars and planets influence personality and immediately turn up their noses.

I’m not trying to convince anyone to believe in astrology. I am, however, trying to alleviate the judgmental way that many non-believers look at astrology. I’ve spent hours poring over astrology textbooks and researching what each sign means and how the planetary signs interact with one another; on the other hand, everyone who scoffs at astrology has extremely limited knowledge on the subject.

People who know only one sign truly know almost nothing about astrology — it’s like saying the whole sky is yellow just because you look into the sun.

Most people only know their “sun sign,” or which astrological house the sun was in at the time of birth. It’s the easiest sign to know — look up your birth date online and Google will do the rest. That’s because the sun stays in each sign for about a month; for other signs, which change as quickly as every three hours, you need to know your birth time.

This is where much of the doubt surrounding astrology comes from: the sun sign is the easiest to know, but it’s also pretty vague. No sign that encompasses an entire month is going to tell you anything specific. This ambiguity creates critics, who say that people who believe in astrology are simply forcing themselves to fit the sign’s stereotypes.

In addition to the sun sign, there are two other signs which influence personality the most. First there’s the moon, which dictates how people think and feel, and arguably has the most sway on personality. After that is the “ascendant” or “rising” sign, which dictates how you present yourself to others. The sun can be described as the planet that makes you an individual.

Otherwise, there are eight other planets that each rule a facet of the personality — astrology is an old study, so the sun and moon are considered planets, while the earth is not. The sky is split into the twelve houses of the zodiac, like twelve pieces of pie labelled with each astrological sign. The planets circle through the houses constantly at varying speeds. Imagine a freeze-frame image being taken just as you were born — this is your natal chart.

When you’re only seeing one piece of the puzzle, like the sun, astrology is not going to seem very special. It’s only when all of these pieces come together that you discover what a clear, precise picture astrology paints of you. You can’t truly appreciate astrology until you know your moon and ascendant, and the planets only get more specific after that. The planet of Mars, for instance, rules anger and sex drive. This specific planet will give you a precise description of yourself — as opposed to the sun sign, which will be consistently vague and is often divided into stereotypes and catch-phrases by lazy astrologers.

If an astrologer relies on these mantras for each sign, turn tail and run. Virgos are not just critical. Sagittarians are not just adventurous. Aries are not just angry. No person is one thing, or two things, or five things; people are complex and multi-faceted. Sometimes, what I read or hear during research could easily apply to anyone. Sometimes, it just doesn’t apply to me. These mistakes could be due to an inaccurate astrologer; most of the time, though, they stem from one sign in my chart directly contradicting another. When astrology seems inaccurate, the inaccuracy can usually be explained by more astrology.

For example, if you have a Virgo sun but have an overwhelming number of other planets in Sagittarius, you may not adhere to the careful, perfectionist Virgo stereotype. Thus, an astrology critic is born.

I don’t blindly believe in astrology, and I don’t want anyone else to, either. I refuse to be one of those astrologers who bully their days into horoscopic shape or refuse to acknowledge the ambiguity of human nature that astrology cannot explain — no science can describe every single aspect of a person. No science can accurately predict how each and every day is going to go, for everyone.

You can refuse to believe in astrology while still not assuming astrologers are unintelligent or naïve. Astrology is less of a hobby for me than a passion. I am understanding of those who choose not to believe in astrology; I only ask that those who don’t believe are understanding of me as well. I’ve done enough personal research to prove its accuracy time and time again; I would not continue to put hours of effort into a subject that was only right half of the time.

Open your mind and allow yourself to believe — you’ll be surprised by what you find.

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