For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved any and all kinds of fortune-telling. As a kid, I’d dutifully read my horoscope in The Washington Post before I went off to school each morning. Every time my family ordered Chinese food, the main attraction for me was the fortune cookie. (I’d always take the first one I touched or saw, reasoning that it must be the one meant for me.) I’d peruse the Astrology aisle at Super Crown and B. Dalton, flipping through pages until I found information on my sign. (In later years, I’d do the same, making sure to check the sign of my latest crush as well.)
Though I’m older and (a little bit) wiser now, I’m still fascinated with all kinds of fortune-related things: astrology, tarot cards, fortune cookies, and even psychics (I’ve yet to visit one, but every time I drive by a sign, I feel a little tug of curiosity…). As much as I’m fascinated by these things, I’ve also spent most of my life flip-flopping on the validity of them. In my heart, I want to believe horoscopes are written by people who understand deep meanings held in the stars, but my logical brain reminds me that horoscopes are written every day around the world and certainly not all of these people could have some sort of deep understanding of how balls of fire in the sky relate to human lives.
And, yet, even with all of the knowledge in the world, I can’t quite turn away from horoscopes. I can see both sides: the logic and the heart, a tell-tale trait of my Leo/Virgo cusp star sign, haha! (I wrote this line as a joke, but then when I found a link to explain it, I was once again blown away with how accurate it is, which, I suppose, brings me to my point…) I believe individual, daily horoscopes are fictional, but I’m not entirely sure that astrology as a whole is completely made up (here’s an article with arguments as to why it should be taken seriously).
Regardless of whether or not I believe in the validity of astrology, I still reach for them constantly, and with excitement, which is an odd thing to do since everything else I read is clearly marked as fiction or fact (or, at least, it seems that way for the most part). The whole “fact” concept has gotten a big makeover lately, with all kinds of untrue or inaccurate things being published, and it’s made me think a lot about what it means when it comes to things like astrology. As I was reading my horoscope last week, I had to pause and ask myself, “Why am I doing this? What do I get out of it if I don’t really believe it’s true?” (After all, this is my Year of Self-Love, and I’ve found that one of the most important, self-loving things I can do is pay attention to things I do and try to discover why I might be doing them.)
Every time I read my horoscope, I’m torn between the between facts (I know it’s been written by a normal human just like me, even if that person does know more about astrology than I do) and feelings (there’s just something so satisfying about reading something that makes you feel understood or provides guidance seemingly tailored for you!). I’ve never really known what do about this “facts vs. feelings” inner dialogue so I’ve mostly ignored it, reading my horoscope when I wanted to, taking from it what I needed, and shushing the part of my brain that piped up, “But this is just nonsense some random person wrote!” All this changed a couple weeks ago when, in the midst of a little self-love reflection, I had one of those a-ha! moments.
I finally understood why I love horoscopes and fortunes so much — and why it actually doesn’t matter that they’re not factual. The reason many of us love horoscopes — regardless of whether or not we believe in them — isn’t because of the specific guidance or insight they provide. It’s because, no matter what is written, we take away from it what we need. Horoscopes provide insights not because they’re so insightful, but because they prompt us to think about how the words — whatever they might be — apply to our lives.
Horoscopes get us thinking about our lives in ways we might not when reading, for example, the news or a fiction book. They claim to be tailored to us specifically and, as a result, we’re constantly looking to agree with or disagree with them. And that alone — the desire to find meaning or to discredit them — is a unique kind of soul-searching, introspective experience. It tells us more about what we feel, what we want to believe, or what we think is true than if we didn’t pause and read them. Of course, we can get these benefits from reading other things as well— self-help or inspirational books, in particular — but not everyone will take the time to do that. (I know you probably would, since you’re reading this article, but not everyone has the time or interest for soul-searching, even though everyone benefits from it.)
So, here’s my thinking. We should read horoscopes, even if it’s just for the opportunity to do a tiny bit of soul-searching. If you already read your horoscope, use tarot cards, see a psychic, etc., keep at it — but strive to be mindful of your responses what you read, see, and hear. (Remember: your responses tell you much more than the words or images ever could!) Rather than simply taking the words and moving on with your day, sit with them for a minute and ask yourself why you agree or disagree with what’s in front of you. Doing that is where the value is — not in the content itself.
And if you don’t read your horoscope because you think it’s made up (it is), you think tarot cards are for witches and hippies (stop judging!), or you believe psychics are just scammers (perhaps…), consider giving it a try and see how you feel. Remember the value is not about what’s in front of you; it’s about how you react to it. As Shakespeare once wrote, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” We control our destinies, but we can actually learn more about what we want that destiny to be by looking at messages from the stars.