Why astrology and religion aren’t really that different
By Amanda Riggio
Horoscopes: two-sentence clips people prey on to find out what mood they can expect to be in that day or what type of foreplay their partner might be aroused by that night. When your stars are telling you to “get a little kinky today,” it’s difficult to take it seriously. Horoscopes are simply a form of entertainment for many Americans. In foreign countries, though, astrology goes much deeper than erotic pleasures. It dictates a way of life.
Despite the frivolousness associated with American horoscopes, Ithaca College sophomore Lani Chevat, an avid horoscope seeker, still frequents appointments with her magazine astrologist. However, the degree of belief Americans have in astrology does not compare to that of cultures abroad. “I don’t do it in a super serious way,” Chevat said. “It’s more for fun. I believe in it, but it’s not like, this will definitely happen. But if it does, it’s a fun coincidence!”
In some countries, like India, astrology is not just a fun pastime. Rather, it is an integral part of daily life. In Indian culture, living in accordance with one’s stars is not considered obsessive—it is spiritually and emotionally traditional.
Megan Kelly, a sophomore at IC, traveled to India this summer, where she had her stars read by a traditional Indian astrologer. The astrologer later gave Kelly her personal star chart. Kelly admitted this was nothing like reading a daily horoscope, something she had done religiously in the states before the trip.
Kelly found that in India, the readings were specifically tailored to her personal alignment with the stars, as opposed to an entire group’s approximate alignment dictated by one’s zodiac sign. Before the reading, she was asked to provide her birth date, the day of the week she was born, as well as the exact time and place of her birth. “If any of this is remotely inaccurate,” said Kelly, “your entire star chart would be misread.” With this information, the astrologer provided her with specific dates on which she would feel certain emotions and certain time periods during which she would be most successful. This guidance from the stars had been written on tiny sheets of paper now pinned to the bulletin board in Kelly’s dorm room. Having already witnessed certain accurately predicted dates, Kelly does not see astrology as simply a “fun coincidence.”
However, she is not the only one to note the difference between daily trivial horoscopes and formalized readings. There is an actual distinction between popular and specialized astrology. In America, the “obsessed” commonly seek the popular simply because it is more accessible. “I check it every time I pick up a magazine or whenever I’m procrastinating,” laughed Chevat. Although some individuals in the U.S. may have their stars read by a professional, its lack of prominence in our culture makes real astrology readings not as commonplace as they are in India.
Still, the validity of astrology and horoscopes in India is still questioned. Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samiti, a “humanist and ethical union” that is running a movement of superstitious belief eradication in India, has made multiple attempts to disprove astrology by insisting it has no scientific background. Some of the group’s experiments have illustrated inaccuracy in readings, but it is equally true, through various individuals’ accounts, that astrological readings can be accurate. As Kelly described, astrology is highly individualistic, and belief is the main facet of the practice, not science.
Although the world today is a place in which people base every decision on extensive research and statistical data, there are various practices that present themselves in our daily lives, like religion, that lack scientific basis. This lack of evidence does not stop people from engraining their beliefs into their lives. However, the efforts to disprove astrology are rooted in the politics of ancient centuries when Christianity began to dictate the actions of society. To this day, according to James R. Lewis, author of the Astrology Encyclopedia and practiced astrologer, the “tensions in the marriage of astrology and Christianity” come from conservative beliefs that “astrology is a delusion at best and a tool of Satan at worst.” Although both are based in beliefs, religion remains a socially accepted stronghold while astrology comes under harsh criticism.
Although the practice may not adhere to scientific research, anecdotes like Kelly’s clearly illustrate the capabilities of astrology. Perhaps, though, the mysteriousness and lack of universal formality of the practice, particularly in the U.S., is what prompts negative connotations of obsessions with astrology.
“Once I went to India,” says Kelly, “I realized how inaccurate the information was that I was seeking in America. Cosmopolitan magazine does not know my fate!”
But are obsessive horoscope readers even seeking to derive their fates from these generalized readings of the stars? According to Chevat, it’s more for a curious satisfaction. “It’s like a mystery novel,” she says. “I like to see if they’re true, but it’s entertainment. It’s not an important factor in changing my life.”
Despite efforts to debunk astrology, it is still a major facet of life in India. During her astrological reading, Kelly was given a list of precious stones and metals that would foster good fortune specifically in her life. Once equipped with this information, she began to notice that many Indians ornamented themselves with such jewelry (made with specific metals and stones). Astrology is something people believe in, not something that needs to be proven. It is part of who they are.
Fundamental cultural differences aside, most individuals are essentially seeking to get the same satisfaction out of astrology. Leenata Shah, a native Indian disciple of a well-known meditation master who accompanied Kelly on her trip, explains there is a universal place for astrology readings in the lives of mankind. “We don’t live a moment without doubt or fear,” she says, “and most of the times we are just running away from ourselves to astrology. It all stems
from anxiety about the future and impatience in letting it unfold gradually.”
Today’s society is all about watching movies that take place in space and planning what we will do ahead of time. The future is a constant thought. Maybe the people who don’t believe in astrology fear fate will take over their self-constructed plans for the future. In a world where science allows us to understand the workings of the most intricate things and control the uncontrollable, perhaps astrology is just a threat.
Amanda Riggio is a sophomore IMC major. She is a Virgo and will find her true love on Thursday. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.