I’m a Leo. I’ve been told it means I’m intense, energetic, and proud. A bit vain in seeking praise from others, but it’s that high self-esteem that fuels my passion in my pursuits. I consistently get reassured that it means I’m a good, charismatic leader. And I can’t exactly give you a good, grounded reason for it, but I agree with it.
I’ve an app that tells me today “if you relax with yourself, you’ll find a distraction.” It tells me other vague yet seemingly insightful sentiments such as I’ll have to share the spotlight when I’m starved for attention, I shouldn’t busy myself trying to make everyone like me, and that the general theme of my life right now is to “understand and control the strange, sometimes disastrous compulsions… it’s hard to reflect when you’re stressed out.”
It’s not wrong. I’m currently on a prolonged spring break from work due to the ongoing global health crisis, and while I entered this week excited for the surplus time to work on my graduate thesis and artwork, I found myself relaxed and definitely distracted. Without the urgency of immediate deadlines I don’t feel pressured to put down my phone, scrolling through endless news updates and subsequent reactions. I’m prone to looking through old photos on social media; a little nostalgic for times now over a decade past, though more in reflection and comparing where I was then to where I am now. Though the more time I spend idly staring and pondering, the less of this break I have to use productively. I’m getting stressed. The horoscope called it out.
Astrology is far from new, though it certainly feels more widespread and prominent than it used to be. Its ubiquity can be attributed to the widespread of sharing horoscopes on social media including mobile apps like the one I’ve been spending time with. Not only do apps create more accessibility than a newspaper or publication, they also give the user more agency over their experience. The updates that I get, based on my input birth year/month/time, are more individualized than a single publication that any Leo with the same newspaper could read. It feels more personal.
Still, astrology needs its opacity. Roland Barthes, in the 1950s, described astrology columns as “…a mirror, the mere institution of reality.” He acknowledges astrology’s target demographic as the working class and indicates that the predictions outlined by the stars “never seek to upset your life.” Rather, it seeks to vaguely yet insightfully reinforce what is already happening. If too specific, or too inciting, it risks imposing a lifestyle that may not apply to the reader rather than proposing reflections. It cannot be too transparent. According to Edouard Glissant in his 1990 work Poetics of Relation, transparency has the effect of reduction of its propositions. If you reduce the sentiment to something specific, something too objective, then fewer readers are able to connect with it. Those reductions from transparency, when posed as objectified and historically concrete models readers must conform to, can become spaces of alienation and violence for individuals whose own self-regard does not relate to existing models. The goal, through proposing opaque narratives, is to create a common constellation through which individuals from a multitude of cultures can link themselves into.
If astrology gets its origins in the constellational positioning of the stars at the time of our birth, then it’s the job of the astrology columnist – the divination wizard, or cleromancer – to translate the cosmos down into the daily experiences of the astrology reader. To create a narrative that the reader can project themselves into as the object of the story. However, through keeping the narrative sentiments opaque, as Barthes puts, the astrologist objectifies daily experiences without demystifying them. The reader isn’t given an objective ground to base their daily actions upon. Rather they remain groundless and, through the horoscope’s reinforcement, are permitted to do so.