“Good morning. I’m Ms. Stielau, and I’m an Aquarius.”
At the start of the spring semester, Media, Culture, and Communications TA Anna Stielau introduced herself to a lecture hall of MCC students by identifying herself with her zodiac sign. She had a reason for this introduction.
“In my experience of New York so far […] astrological signs work as a shorthand to signal comfort and familiarity,” Stielau told WSN. “Whether you’re talking about them ironically or not, they’re a gentle way of saying, ‘I’m open to playing this particular game,’ which aligns you with a community and its ideals.”
While NYU may lack a central campus and rah-rah school spirit, its attitude of embracing the unfamiliar aids in the cultivation of smaller and more niche subcultures — including astrology.
For NYU students, astrology is just one way they connect in the city they call a campus, like Steinhardt first-year Haley Mitchell, who is a Leo.
“On [the] Co-Star [app], you can add friends and see how their chart matches up with yours,” Mitchell said. “I have a lot of friends that I’ve made here at NYU added on Co-Star, including my roommate.”
CAS junior Chris Molina, who is a Cancer, acknowledges NYU’s affinity for astrology despite his personal lack of belief.
“NYU does seem more accepting of all types of opinions compared to some other universities,” Molina said. “If there’s a culture behind horoscopes here, no one would shame it. People are going to welcome it with open arms and let them do their thing.”
Astrology, like spiritual guides and religious traditions, is merely one way people can begin to learn not only about others but also themselves. As Molina points out, these four years are the perfect time to do so.
“Here at NYU, where people are in a phase of life where they’re trying to find themselves, horoscopes might allow for some sort of guidance or self-reflection,” Molina said.
Beyond self-exploration, there are many possible reasons why astrology has grown in popularity among millennials.
Apps like Co-Star and horoscope websites offer quick answers and easy ways to meet others who are also compatible. Technology’s advantageous influence on astrology has not gone unnoticed by Stielau.
“Alternative knowledge systems flourish on the Internet where they move rapidly through communities who might not otherwise share space or identifications,” Stielau said.
Studies have also found that stress is one of the main reasons people turn to horoscopes and star signs, hoping to find meaning amidst the chaos of the world and lessen the amount of unknown.
In an age where nothing seems concrete, millennials are arguably the most stressed-out generation. Global warming, a president who likes to threaten nuclear war, Brexit, realizing Justin and Selena are over for good — people are forced to reimagine aspects of the world they have always taken for granted, consequently turning to astrology.
However, CAS sophomore Isabella Bohren, who is a Pisces, has her own theory about millennials’ fascination with astrology — it’s a blast from the past.
“Our generation has a fascination with the decades of the past,” Bohren said. “As we’re reverting back to a lot of aspects of the ’60s and ’70s, such as methods of listening to music with vinyls and clothing and polaroid film, it makes sense that people would become interested in the spiritual side as well.”
Bohren is referring to “The Age of Aquarius.” Astrologists in the ’60s determined the world’s backward movement, or retrograde, that placed the Earth in a new era. This declaration led to a revamp of astrology’s popularity, resulting in a spiritual revolution and — of course — the iconic musical, Hair, where songs like “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Aquarius” reflected society’s interests in cosmic concepts.
Despite astrology’s steady popularity across the decades, many questions remain over its validity. However, as a Cancer, CAS sophomore Nadia AbdulRahman is able to get past the lack of evidence in horoscopes and signs.
“Seasonal depression is real, and when people talk about being depressed because there’s no sun, that’s accepted and justified,” AbdulRahman said. “But when I say Mercury’s in retrograde and that’s why I’m acting weird, people think I’m crazy. Who’s to say the energies and gravitational pulls of our universe and planets don’t have some unknown effect?”
AbdulRahman is not alone in turning to the unexplainable as a reason not to dismiss astrology. Tisch sophomore Caroline Hedrick, who is a Leo, goes so far as to liken the belief in astrological birth charts to a religious tradition.
“You seek guidance from someone else, and with astrology, that guidance is found in a chart that aligns with the time of your birth,” Hedrick said. “You can go to a priest and have him tell you what to do, but why not just look at your birth chart and try to make decisions based off of what is outlined there? I don’t see much of a difference.”
Pop culture markets have heard the astrological cry of millennials, and they have begun capitalizing on the trend.
Spotify commissioned astrologer Chani Nicholas to put together sign-based playlists for each of the 12 zodiac signs. Nicholas claims to have made each playlist according to what might suit the moment each astrological sign finds themselves in according to their birth charts.
Astrology has influenced film as well. Individuals have taken to giving popular characters from Disney movies and TV shows an astrological category, allowing people to easily identify with fictional characters.
In the online world, Cosmopolitan has added a horoscope section to their online publications and in the news section of the Snapchat app. The magazine offers several types of horoscopes, including daily, weekly and monthly horoscopes, dream-decoding horoscopes and sexoscopes.
Despite astrology’s fame onscreen and in print, many are unaware or choose to ignore its potential. When encountering those who dismiss astrology completely, Bohren poses a question for final thought.
“There are so many mysteries still unsolved in the world,” Bohren said. “Astrology could be one of them. There’s no point in shutting it down because we don’t know what exists beyond the physical realm. We don’t know, so why can’t it be astrology?”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, April 22, 2019, print edition.
Email Calais Watkins at [email protected]