Can a paragraph in a newspaper predict your day, your week or even your future? Many readers may say ‘No’. However, every morning many people rush to the horoscopes page of the dailies, to check what their Zodiac Sign predicts about their day.
They will check for an explanation for their bad mood, or for a clue that the deal they have been struggling to get will be sealed soon, or that they might even meet their soul mate! So are horoscopes really a prediction of the future, or is it all hogwash?
In the ancient civilisations, people learnt to associate occurrences with the patterns of heavenly bodies like the sun, the moon and the stars. This practice began in Babylon and eventually spread to Europe.
The body mass of knowledge resulting from this thirst for understanding of real events resulted into what is now called astrology, which is both a science and an art closely related to religion.
Astrology is the study of the influence that distant cosmic objects, usually stars and planets, have on human lives. A horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person’s birth.
Horoscopes come from a Greek word, horoscopus which means observer of the hour (of birth). The Greeks used them to determine when to harvest and plant their crops.
This eventually evolved into believing the position of the sun and planets could reflect on a personal life, even though at that time they did not use horoscopes for that purpose.
Most people experience of astrology comes from their signs, which are according to How Stuff Works, refers to one of the 12 constellations of the zodiac.
This is a form of sun-sign astrology, which is the astrology upon which newspaper horoscopes are based. It is probably the simplest form.
There is no doubt that even in an era where controversy shrouds the filed of astrology, the practice remains very popular all over the world.
In 2004 America Online’s most popular search term was “horoscope.”
A Gallup Poll telephone survey conducted in June 2005 found that 25 percent of Americans believe that the position of the stars and planets can affect their lives.
According to The Telegraph, a newspaper in the UK , researchers at the University of Wales interviewed 34,000 youngsters aged between 13-15 last year and found that nearly as many of them believed in horoscopes as they believe in God.
It does not only stop at daily predictions. Zodiac signs can also be used by astrologers to predict compatibility of two individuals in romantic relationships and even business.
A new Scientist Article says, “The more plausible reason for their popularity is that “they are vague, positive generalisations which are true of most people and yet are supposedly derived specifically for a named individual.”
Take an example. On Monday 5th January 2009, the Gemini horoscope in this newspaper said “…today is the perfect day for clearing your desk or to do list of the small stuff that might start to add up soon.”
Surely every Gemini or anyone with a job had a lot of junk to clear on the first working day of the year after the long holiday! What about Taurus?
It read, “You should have fond feelings bubbling up for friends and family?” who wasn’t with family or friends during the holiday season? Are these accurate predictions or intelligent generalisations? Another school of thought points towards astrology being merely a matter of belief.
“That the forces involved in astrology exist beyond science, in a quasi-religious realm involving a person’s soul; or perhaps the influences extend to another world, where our laws of science do not hold true.”
Although to bring astrology in the same circles as faith or religious belief would be equivalent to sacrilege. In fact in many religious circles, astrology is referred to as outright devilish.
David Milner, Professor of Psychology at The University of Westminster says that “People look at their horoscopes and either account or discount it. I don’t think they are harmful because they are not viewed as a serious matter. They are a diversion, a topic of conversation, a guide and, most importantly, good fun.”
He goes on to state that astrology increased in popularity in the last century because of the decline in religion. People who are uncertain about their future turn to unconventional means to try to understand it. No wonder even if fortune tellers in many areas are considered as fake, a lot of people still turn to them to predict the direction of their lives.
Even with the kind of popularity that horoscopes and astrology commands, with a section in every newspaper or magazine, the fact that their place is most likely the leisure pages concurs with the idea that it is basically entertainment that hold no more water than a simple crossword puzzle.
And for the entire hullabaloo about predicting the future, perhaps what people are looking for is simply the certainty in an uncertain world, and the daily reassurance that they are making good decisions about their life, and the hope that the day ahead will be a good and successful one.