Astrology is a meme and it is spreading in that flourishing and developed way as memes do. On social media, astrologers and astrology meme machines accumulate tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, people joke about Mercury retrograde and classify “signs as …” literally anything: cat breeds, Oscar Wilde quotes , Stranger Things characters, types of french fries. Daily, weekly and monthly horoscopes and zodiac themed charts flourish in online posts.
This is not the first time that astrology has done it and it will not be the last. The practice has existed in various forms for thousands of years. More recently, the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s came with tremendous help from the zodiac. (Some also refer to the New Age as the “Age of Aquarius,” the 2,000-year period after the Earth is said to have moved into the sign of Aquarius.)
In the decades between the New Age boom and now, while astrology certainly didn’t go away (horoscopes could still be found regularly on the back pages of magazines), “it was a little further behind,” says Chani. Nicholas, a Los Angeles-based astrologer. “Then there is something that has happened in the last five years that has given it a nervous look, a relevance to this time and place, that it had not had in its good 35 years. Millennials have taken it and followed it.”
Many people I spoke to for this article said that they felt that the stigma associated with astrology, while it still existed, had receded as the practice took hold in online culture, especially for young people.
“In recent years, we’ve really seen a restructuring of New Age practices, very much geared towards a Millennial and Young Gen X ratio,” says Lucie Greene, global director of the J. Walter Thompson innovation group, which tracks and predicts cultural trends.
Callie Beusman, senior editor at Broadly, says the site’s horoscope traffic has “grown exponentially.” Stella Bugbee, president and editor-in-chief of The Cut, says that a typical horoscope post on the site got 150% more traffic in 2017 than the previous year.
In a way, astrology is perfectly suited to the Internet age. There is a low barrier to entry and almost infinite depths to explore if you feel like falling into a Google search hole. The availability of more in-depth information online has given this cultural wave of astrology some erudition: more jokes about Saturn’s return, less “Hey baby what’s your sign?” shooting lines.
A brief introduction: astrology is not a science; there is no evidence that a person’s zodiac sign is actually related to personality. But the system has its own logic. Astrology attributes meaning to the position of the sun, moon, and planets within the 12 sections of the sky – the signs of the zodiac. You probably know your sun sign, the most famous zodiac sign, even if you are not a fan of astrology. It is based on where the sun was on your birthday. But the position of the moon and each of the other planets at the time and place of your birth adds more nuances to the image of you painted by your “natal chart”.
“These days kids and their memes are the perfect context for astrology.”
What horoscopes are supposed to do is give you information about what the planets are doing right now and in the future and how this affects each sign. “Think of the planets as a cocktail,” explains Susan Miller, the famous astrologer who founded the Astrology Zone website. “You could have three people talking together, two could be in a corner arguing, Venus and Mars could kiss. I have to make sense of those conversations that happen every month. ”
“Astrologers are always trying to break these giant concepts into digestible pieces of knowledge,” says Nicholas. “These days kids and their memes are the perfect context for astrology.”
Astrology expresses complex ideas about personality, life cycles, and relationship patterns by abbreviating planets and zodiac symbols. And that shorthand works well online, where symbols and shorthand are often incorporated into communication.