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How It Works: Astrology

What it is and how it actually works whether you believe the stars affect your fate or not.

Feb 03, 2020

This month’s installment of Kidzworld’s “How it Works” column focuses on Horoscopes. We dive deep into questions like what astrology is, how the position of the sun, moon, and stars in relation to earth can affect your personality, and how your relative position in space can affect your relationships with yourself and those around you. We also talk about why we turn to horoscopes or astrology for answers, and why those answers are helpful even if you think this whole planetary relationship stuff is a bunch of made-up silliness.

What is Astrology?

“Astrology is the study of how things seemingly far away in our Solar System--like the Moon, Jupiter, the Sun-- affect things very close to us: our friendships, our personalities, our likes and dislikes,” according to Clarisse Monahan, an astrology reporter for Bustle.com and the voice behind the astrology website Venus in Retrograde. People who study astrology believe that each planet is like a magnet pulling energy toward it. As the planets move, they exert a different pull or force on other objects. The force is so small we can’t see or notice it, but astrologers believe that the energy around us is affected by these small pulls. Astrologers believe that unseen energy is strong enough to make a difference in big and small events everywhere.

If you look up into the night sky on a clear night, you can almost feel the energy around you. Astrologers believe that energy can affect behavior, mood, luck, love, and more.If you look up into the night sky on a clear night, you can almost feel the energy around you. Astrologers believe that energy can affect behavior, mood, luck, love, and more.Courtesy of Yes! Magazine

How can the position of celestial objects affect or predict behavior?

“Astrology does not predict the future,  but rather suggests a way to navigate it,” according to astrologer Ambika Devi. She points out that movements in the night sky have been recorded for more than 25,000 years. These movements, as you already know, influence seasons and weather, day and night, time and tides. Our animal friends in nature also rely on earth’s position among the stars to figure out the best time for harvesting, hibernating, migrating, and even having babies, just as our human ancestors did for thousands of years, even before recorded time. Astrologers believe that there is an underlying rhythm to these cosmic movements that can influence many aspects of our lives in invisible yet powerful ways. 

A star chart pinpoints the exact location of the planets and constellations in the sky at the moment you were bornA star chart pinpoints the exact location of the planets and constellations in the sky at the moment you were born

How to Read Your Horoscope

The Zodiac: A Band of Constellations

The word “zodiac” comes from the Greek term kykylo zodiakos, which translates to “a circle of little animals”. The twelve zodiac signs are the constellations that live along an arc in the night sky that all of the planets pass through. Each of the signs basically carves out 30° or 1/12th of the 360° circle in the sky. The sun passes through these signs at the same time every year. 

See where your birthday lands on the chart to discover your sun signSee where your birthday lands on the chart to discover your sun signCourtesy of Alamy

The Chinese Zodiac

Your Chinese zodiac sign depends on the year you were born. According to the Chinese zodiac, all the people who were born in the same year share similar traits. 2020 is the year of the Rat. “Each Animal stands as a symbol, denoting the essential ‘character’, ‘color’, and ‘flavor’ that influences all things that come into being in any one year,” according to The Chinese Zodiac website.  Visit their astrology page to learn more about your sign.

Find your birth year on the chart to discover your lucky animal and the traits you have inherited.Find your birth year on the chart to discover your lucky animal and the traits you have inherited.Courtesy of China Highlights

Your Sun Sign Horoscope

You probably know your Sun Sign -- the one you can figure out from your birthday. On the day you are born, the constellation that the sun is passing through is your designated sun sign. That’s the sign you look up when you read your horoscopes. But what are you really learning when you read your horoscope? Astrologer Leslie McGurk explains: “Your astrology chart has the same influence over you as an owner's manual in a car's glove compartment has. You have free will. You are driving the vehicle. But the owner's manual describes what is best for your machine.” 

Ms. McGurk also explains that the horoscopes you read every day or month that are based on your sun sign give you a basic overview of your place in the universe that’s the equivalent of a “weather report”. She offers another analogy: “Everyone knows if they are a Cancer or a Leo, etc. That is like saying you are a Ford or a Toyota. But are you a truck or a convertible sports car?” When you look up your horoscope based on your sun sign, you are seeing your "brand" of car.

Your Star Chart

But astrology looks at much more than that when figuring out your personal relationship to the universe of energy and forces of nature. Your personal star chart is based on the date, time and place you were born. Astrologers believe that the precise position of the sun, moon, and planets in relation to your location on earth the moment you were born is as unique and detailed as a fingerprint, and has an impact on your personality, the way you interact with others, your strengths and challenges, and your path in life. 

“In Astrology your natal chart is a unique blueprint. It won’t be repeated again for over 26000 years!” says Ms. Monahan, the Bustle reporter quoted above. 

“A person born in Stockholm, Sweden in the year 2000, at 3:43 pm on the 12th of June, will have a kind of ‘cosmic selfie’ taken of him or her at this moment--this is the natal chart. The Sun will be at a certain point in the sky. The Moon in another. Venus in another. And so on. It will be a much different cosmic selfie than someone born in Tokyo, in the year 1976, at 2:11 am, on December 1. 

“In the Stockholm selfie, the Sun, which deals with the Self, might be in a part of the Zodiac associated with Money. Therefore, the Stockholm person’s Self may be attracted to cash and derive self-worth from it. In the Tokyo selfie, the Sun might be in a part of the Zodiac dealing with friendship--and the Tokyo person will derive self-worth less from money and more from friends. So Astrology basically looks at various planets at various points in the sky in people’s cosmic selfie. Like details in a selfie we take anywhere, each cosmic selfie (or natal chart) will tell us much about a person’s personality.” 

Why We Read Horoscopes

Whether you believe in cosmic forces or not, reading your horoscope isn’t just fun, it can also be helpful. Ms. Monahan explains: “People turn toward astrology for two interrelated reasons. First, most everyone wants to know themselves more. Second, they want to know how the future may impact their sense of Self. What’s going to happen next month? Next year? Next decade? What’s going to happen for me? For my family? By charting the very predictable and mathematical motions of the planets, Astrology helps give a sense of things that may be coming up in our lives. It provides a framework for self knowledge which includes our strengths and weaknesses; what we should improve on and why; and, importantly, when good times and not so bad times are coming toward us.”

Your horoscope gives you an opportunity to examine your life from a different perspective. Whether your horoscope tells you something you agree with -- on a day you feel filled with possibilities, your horoscope may read: “today you’re feeling creative!”, or you may get that horoscope when you’re feeling completely down and lackluster and laugh at how wrong your horoscope is -- you’re still evaluating what the horoscope says against what you’re feeling in the moment. Examining what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or how you translate what’s happening in your life can be a powerful tool in dealing with problems or complicated feelings. It can help you see patterns in your moods or behavior that you never noticed before, or it can help you choose a more positive path when you’re making decisions. 

The app Co-Star has become really popular among kids, teens and young adults in the past couple of years, and adults are turning to it as well -- even people who don’t believe in horoscopes! You plug in the date, time, and place of birth to generate a precise star chart that lays out your unique blueprint for free. When you download the app, you can add your friends and family members who also use the app to compare your forecasts for the day, chart where you’re compatible, and see what kind of day you each have in store. 

“Based on 2,500 years of reflection on rhythmic orbit and planetary motion, astrology is an advanced art for the modern world. By correlating human experiences across space and time, astrology takes us beyond the walls of our bedrooms and ceilings of our day jobs. It adds mystery and magnitude to a clinical and confusing reality. It transforms daily routines into something in the context of a vast universe.” -- Co-Star Astrology 

Journalist and horoscope-non-believer Stephanie Convery downloaded the Co-Star app out of curiosity. She was surprised to discover how addicting and soothing its push notifications were. Even though she still doesn’t believe in horoscopes, the app has found a place in her life. It’s become a tool for finding order and seeing things from a different angle: “It’s not about putting your life in the hands of a higher power, but finding a space amid the chaos to think through all the muck. If it takes some dubious, unscientific stargazing to be able to do that, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

The Co-Star app can send you notifications to your phone to check your personalized horoscopeThe Co-Star app can send you notifications to your phone to check your personalized horoscopeCourtesy of Vanity Fair

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What’s your Chinese zodiac sign? What about your sun sign? Do you believe in horoscopes? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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