Jessai Flores

Jessai Flores

On the morning of Dec. 2, Rebecca Mironko’s phone pinged with a notification: “Today you might be feeling some deep feelings. This is a good time to go inward and spend some time on your own.” Every morning between 9 and 9:30 a.m., Mironko ’24 receives a notification from an astrology app entitled “The Pattern.” Based on the movement of the planets and their interaction with Mironko’s birth chart, the app provides insight into how planetary movement is affecting her personal life, world events or the experiences of those she has “friended” on the app.

Mironko is part of a growing segment of Gen Z interested in astrology. In addition to daily notifications from The Pattern, she receives daily pieces of advice or omens from another popular astrology app called Co-Star, has conversations with her improv group about Spotify Wrapped auras and shares memes about different zodiac signs in her suitemate group chat.

Avik Sarkar ’23 was friends with Mironko before they both came to Yale. Though Sarkar credits their high school friend group for introducing him to astrology, he became more invested in it during the pandemic because he was spending a lot of time alone. Astrology often gave him a starting point for self-reflection and journaling. For example, he found Mercury in Retrograde helpful for creating a sense of consistency between present and past life experiences. Mercury in Retrograde is when Mercury, from Earth’s perspective, appears to reverse direction due to an optical illusion. In popular culture, Mercury in Retrograde is seen as the cause of technology, planning and communication troubles and often blamed for misunderstandings. Astrologers often refrain from signing contracts or initiating new ventures during this time. For some astrologers, these three week cycles are good times to slow down and reflect. The concept of reflecting during these periods helped “connect my life during the pandemic, to my life before,” Sarkar said.

When asked why Gen Z seems to be particularly interested in astrology, Mironko quickly singled out the “worldwide chaos” members of the generation have experienced during their time growing up. In contrast to the feelings of exhaustion that arise from “being Gen Z and living in this world … especially at a place like Yale, where we feel like our individual decisions matter so much,” Sarkar finds the astrological perspective of meaning in planetary movements to be “so freeing.”

Mironko and Sarkar are not alone in their interest in astrology. Astrology-themed Tik Toks, memes, social media pages and apps have abounded, fueled by large followings from Gen Z, which has been reported as the generation that most believes in astrology. The BBC reported that Google searches about astrology and birth charts hit a five year peak in 2020. Inextricable from the story of astrology’s recent return to the mainstream is the pandemic and the emotional, financial, physical and mental challenges that have ensued. Some have turned to astrology for comfort, guidance, healing or self-knowledge during these trying times.

Jennifer Joseph is a California-based astrologer who advertises her birth chart and tarot reading under the name “Five Star Virgo.” She has practiced professionally for 10 years and informally for another two decades. Joseph explains the connection between Gen Z and astrology by pointing out the alignment of the planets during Gen Z’s birth. For a portion of Gen Z, Uranus is in Aquarius, Joseph says, which explains why we would be more drawn to astrology.

“Aquarius is the sign … of the collective and kind of out there concepts, technology, understanding larger patterns and Uranus is very kind of quirky, and eccentric and unexpected,” Joseph said. “It makes sense that your generation would be into astrology, because it’s sort of outside of the norm of what came before.”

Defining Astrology

Lorenzo Sanford is an astrologer, musician and author of a book called The Beautiful Logic of Astrology. Sanford’s “obsession with astrology” began as a teenager after he got a reading done from an “old woman with mysterious eyes” at Laguna Beach. Now an astrology reader and expert himself, Sanford counsels clients who book personal readings and speaks about astrology to audiences on Youtube. There are varied traditions and practices “just like we have different cultures, different countries have different approaches to astrology,” Sanford said. A person’s astrological birth chart is determined by the alignment of the planets at their birth time and location, giving each person a unique chart.

Sanford explained that “according to astrological theory, there is no duplication in any chart for 26,000 years.” Each person is “an agent of the time that you were born in,” he said. “So you, on whatever day and time you were born, manifest a certain quality, a certain character that only exists during that time. And when you took your first breath, you started vibrating to the energy of the world around you.” This unique energy is significant, he said, because it can explain and point each individual on a specific path “because you came here to do whatever that energy is, whatever that energy describes.”

Diana Brownstone is a nationally-certified astrologer based in New York City. She has been interviewed on The Meredith Vieira Show and The Today Show, among others, and has done astrology readings for over thirty years. When describing the influence that the planets have on ourselves and our lives, Sanford and Brownstone both referenced the quote, “as above, so below” from the Emerald Tablet, a Hermetic text from the late eighth or early ninth century. Brownstone mentioned that humans are “electrical beings” and respond to the energy transmitted through the universe. Sanford explained the connection between earthly and cosmic events, by stating that one can explain events “in the microcosm from what’s happening in the macrocosm above.”

Interest in astrology has pervaded throughout history. For many centuries, astrology and astronomy were considered to be aspects of the same discipline. In a 1599 letter to German statesman and scholar Johann Herwart von Hohenberg, renowned astronomer Johannes Kepler, the first scientist to correctly explain planetary motion, shared his belief in the power of astrology, arguing that “it influences a human being as long as he lives in no other way than that in which the peasant haphazardly ties slings around pumpkins; these do not make the pumpkin grow, but they determine its shape.” He continued, “So do the heavens: they do not give a man morals, experiences, happiness, children, wealth, a wife, but they shape everything with which a man has to do.” Religion and astrology have long had a tenuous relationship. After the end of the war between the Persian and Roman Empires in the mid 300s AD, there was a regional Christian council meeting called the Synod of Laodicea that sought to regulate the behavior of church members. Astrology was deemed dangerous, and became forbidden in this meeting. Traditional science and astrology diverged towards the end of the 17th century, when astrology began to be seen as less in alignment with science.

Sanford thinks that astrology has something extra that science can’t explain. “The reason why astrology can’t ever be purely a science is because our human experience is so conditioned on something deeper than a material form,” he said. “We are definitely more than just skin and bones and teeth and the physical things.” He pointed to the belief in the existence of a person’s soul or spirit as the special ingredient animating human life. “There’s something in us that transcends… a purely physical world,” he said.

Sanford agreed that astrology can’t be proven in the traditional way — one “can’t do a randomized, double blind study of human nature” — which causes many to be skeptical of astrology’s potential merits. In his view, astrology goes beyond science into the arts. He said of astrology, “[it] is scientific, in that you’re accurately following the precise mathematical movements of bodies and space, but it’s an art in that you are then taking that information and drawing conclusions based on behaviors, and you cannot ever quantify behaviors of human beings into a statistically 100% or even 90% reliable framework.” However, Sanford doesn’t see astrology’s inability to be 100% reliable as a downside, as “astrology gives you at least 70% probability of having an accurate assessment of the areas that it represents,” and when trying to plan and understand your life, those odds are “worth betting on.”

Astrology and Technology

The spread of astrology apps, websites, blogs and other astrological technology has undoubtedly partially fueled its rise in Gen Z. “I think apps in general have helped pique people’s interest and then they’ve gone on to perhaps get their chart done,” Brownstone said. Those who come to her consultations tend to know more than just their sun sign, she shared. But according to Brownstone, this increased access to generic astrology information without taking the full chart into consideration can make people “very fatalistic.”

Brownstone and Sanford pointed to the utility and accuracy of digital astrology tools for calculating the alignment of planets and birth charts — something they used to have to do by hand. They are then able to interpret these calculations during their sessions with clients.

Sanford thinks that astrological technology is a good thing so long as it is taken “with a grain of salt.” Nothing beats a professional astrologer’s interpretation of a person’s birth chart, he explained. “A good astrologer,” Sanford said, is someone who looks at “all the elements” of who you are and then “communicates with you to understand what influences have come into your life to help shape you and then gives you an understanding of how those environmental influences work with the way that you are wired, the way your innate patterns are. And an app can’t do that.” Given that apps, videos and internet resources are more accessible for Gen Z, technology has a large impact on how this generation interacts with astrology.

Mironko and Sarkar’s introduction to and experience with astrology has been heavily influenced by technology and social media, especially during the pandemic. Mironko subscribes to a weekly astrology newsletter and she and Sarkar have both run bonds on the Pattern app, which shows astrological compatibility for two people based on their birth charts. During the long months of social distancing and afterwards, Mironko has found that following astrology hashtags and accounts on Twitter is a “fun way to relate to people on the internet.” While “scrolling through miles of Twitter” and following the Capricorn topic, she was able to relate to others while being “all locked away in our separate quarantine.’”

Astrology and Self-Knowledge

Sanford points out that an interest in oneself and self-reflection is as old as the interest in the movements of the planets. He says there are five main themes that people ask him about during astrological readings: relationships, careers, family, finances and health, especially emotional health.

Sanford argues that one of the biggest values of astrology is the opportunity to get to know oneself more deeply. Astrology is “a perfect tool [for this purpose] because this is not pop psychology, this is something that has existed for literally thousands of years,” he said. “Through these millennia, people have observed and recorded … and discerned a lot about humanity.”

Sanford elaborated on the value of astrology for understanding the self. Nothing “beats astrology, for understanding who you are at a core level, what your motivations are, what your fears are, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are,” he said. At the same time, astrology can also be a valuable tool to point “you in the direction of what you should be doing to make the most of who you are in this life.”

Like Sanford, Mironko sees astrology as a tool for self-knowledge. “I think … it’s fun to know yourself in any way,” she said. She likened it to different personality quizzes like Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. Sanford reflected on this connection: “Astrology is not only fun,” he said, “but it’s the … prototype of … all those assessment tests.” But, unlike those, astrology and birth charts are fixed. Mironko finds this aspect comforting: it “is kind of nice to… know [that] ‘I’m indecisive, classic Libra.’ It’s written in the stars, that’s just how you are, [and] it’s okay. You don’t have to change that aspect of yourself.” Astrology “almost relieves the pressure of all of the things that make up you,” Mironko said.

Brownstone highlights the utility of astrology in figuring out timing in one’s life. “I think it’s such an incredible map, timing map and guide,” she said. Those who don’t utilize astrology “would not have the same insight into events that are happening in their lives, or the foreknowledge of types of events that could happen,” Brownstone said. “It gives you a broader understanding of your life as a whole.”

Astrology in Everyday Social Life

As many Gen Zers can attest, astrology has taken on a social life of its own, often appearing in casual conversations with friends or acquaintances. A sense of fun and curiosity underpins Mironko and Sarkar’s interest and belief in astrology, noting that talking about astrology is “always a good conversation starter,” Sarkar said. Mironko agreed, “I love using it to get to know people.” She enjoys pulling up a friend or acquaintance’s birth chart and analyzing the different placements of the planets. “Even if [the birth chart] doesn’t resonate with them …you’re learning about that person,” she said. “It’s an easy window into getting to know someone at a deeper level.”

Sarkar found that astrology has been beneficial for his interpersonal relationships, because it recognizes that loved ones will sometimes have traits “that bother you” but are fundamental to who they are. Astrology allowed him to “laugh it off” because it “gives you a framework of relating to people” and acknowledging the multifacetedness of their personalities.

Astrology as Spiritual Guidance

Joseph underscores the relationship between world events and an interest in astrology. “I think that things sort of emerge and evolve on their own according to how people are and what’s happening and how people want to engage in things,” she said. “I definitely think that astrology has seen a resurgence, and all things metaphysical have. This younger generation is really into it. And I feel like those sorts of things sort of morph out into the collective.”

Tantamount to the spread of astrology in the last two years is the upheaval people have experienced as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Joseph pointed to the uncertainty people have felt as partly fueling the increased interest. “My business grew during the pandemic,” Joseph said. “Wanting to know that it’s going to be okay is very deep in all of us, that need for stability.”

People who are “more worried or more anxious” are going to be more likely in need of a consultation, she explained. Astrology can be useful “especially when there’s a crisis, because it gives you a start date and end date, you know how long you’re going to be in this.” During prolonged crises like the pandemic, “it gives a sense of comfort, even in a difficult situation, in that you can accept what’s going on and not think it’s your fault that you’re stuck.”

Brownstone highlights the healing effect that astrology can play in people’s lives, drawing comparisons between spiritual guidance to the role that a therapist might play in people’s lives during moments of crisis, indecision or stress.

Joseph also points to the mental factors that can cause people to search for answers in astrology. “I think there’s a huge mental health crisis … because of the pandemic, because of how we live,” Joseph said. “I think there is a need for what I do and what people like me do … People want healing, people want to feel better in their bodies, and in their minds and in their spirits. And I think situations like these large global situations, they trigger this yearning.” She sees these global crises and movements as part of the reason that astrology and spirituality have “hit the mainstream in a way that wasn’t like that before. So I think it’s time for us to heal collectively and get on with healing this planet.”

Despite astrology’s longevity, there are many people who don’t subscribe to the belief system. Joseph points to a cultural stigma around practices like astrology that are seen as “witchy.” She believes that some of this stigma comes from a “more patriarchal kind of power structure … they don’t want people to be empowered in terms of their own self understanding and their self knowledge. They want people to rely on the structures that they’ve created,” Joseph said. “[But] an empowered person understands themselves … Astrology is just one tool of empowerment.” That being said, astrology isn’t for everyone. “People are gonna take it or leave it,” Joseph said. Those “who stigmatize it or think it’s rubbish, they’re entitled to their beliefs.”

Whether astrology will be helpful or not is going to depend on the person, says Brownstone. While Brownstone finds astrology helpful and knows that the people who come to her also do, “there are just some people who it may not be for them, because they already have a certain set of beliefs, and … a sense of faith that they don’t need something beyond that,” she said. “I think a lot of what people get from a reading is a faith that there’s an order to the universe.” Many practitioners of astrology are drawn by the hyper-personalization that comes from the alignment of the planets, and also the feeling that each individual is part of a cosmic order that can explain experiences and provide meaning in their life.

Mironko appreciates the macro lens that astrology provides. “You zoom out as much as you possibly can,” Mironoko said. “It helps you feel like just a tiny, insignificant speck in the world. You’re … at the whim of the universal forces.”

Sarkar also feels like astrology lends a valuable perspective to his experiences. “You feel seen,” Sarkar said. It also helps him make sense of feelings by “people putting into words, experiences that I might not be able to write.”

On a broader scale, Sarkar sees astrology perhaps filling a role in Gen Z people’s life that religion has traditionally filled for older generations. “My mom is ‘Hindu’ and I put that in quotation marks because she, for all intents and purposes, is not. She does not follow any of the customs and traditions, except that she fasts on Fridays and only eats vegetarian food … it’s like she’s using religion for a specific purpose, which is having a routine, a way of life, a way of looking at life,” Sarkar said. “I think in a similar way, astrology has performed that function for people our age who are into it. It’s just a way of making sense of things even if it’s not real or true.”

Mironko also likens astrology to a faith or belief system. “People use religion in the same way,” she said, but she views religion as coming with “more baggage” and rules. Like many other trends, astrology’s resurgence in pop culture comes with its own dilemmas. Mironko bemoaned how astrology has been “perverted” by consumerism on social media, mentioning memes on Instagram showing “all the signs as a purse and then it’s like a way to sell your purses.” Sarkar agrees and added, “it has become a money-making industry, just like anything else can be made into a money-making industry, right? And I think what frustrates me is when people will take that as a way to critique astrology, because the problem isn’t astrology; the problem is that it’s being co-opted.”

The chaos and unique challenges that the pandemic has brought on society have caused many to search for meaning, answers and self-knowledge in old and new directions. For some members of Gen Z, astrology has been a source of spiritual guidance during the turbulent last couple of years. Astrology might not be for everyone, but in Mironko’s view, “self reflection never hurts.”