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Discuss: What's Your Sign?

When I was 11 years old, a classmate passed a quiz around at lunch.  It asked you to list your favorite hobbies, books, music, ice cream flavor, etc.  I flew through the list extolling my love of mint chip and Alexander Dumas until I reached question 24: What’s your sign?  I had no idea what “sign” it was referring to, so I asked my tablemates.

They looked at me like I had three heads.  Because like most young teenage girls, they were obsessed with their horoscopes and the Zodiac. How could I not know my sign? They were published every month in Bop! and Tiger Beat. (Incidentally, I didn’t know what those were either.)  

The next day, determined to learn all about astrology as a mechanism for fitting in with my peers, I asked my Father if I could see his newspaper.  When I told him that I wanted to read my horoscope, he came unhinged.  I’m pretty sure he told me that horoscopes were tools of the devil, or something to that effect.  

His reaction to my 24-hour-old hobby was especially odd, since at that point in my life, my Father wasn’t particularly religious.  And I remember thinking how incredibly strange it was that he used such Salem-esque language. But he was so serious about his latest prohibition, that I avoided horoscopes thereafter.

I’ve find it interesting that in a world of facts and science, where genes are sequenced and satellites launched into orbit, there are people who still believe that the stars and planets have the power to navigate their lives.  I don’t think astrology is devilish, I just think that it’s supernatural snake oil.  And for a long time, I wondered what educated, intelligent, forward-thinking person woke up every morning believing that the path of their life was predestined by a flaming rock thousands of light years away?

I suppose I once imagined that the people who gave creedence to astrology were the same people who bought things from 3:00AM infomercials and lost all their money betting the numbers on the back of Chinese food fortunes.  That is, until I learned that one of my very best friends not only reads her horoscope, but has all the star charts and books necessary to chart her own horoscope.  My mind was effectively blown.

For her benefit, and the survival of our friendship, I have seriously toned down how vocal I am about my skepticism (this post not withstanding).  I even read my horoscope on rare occasions. However, I like to read it the next day so that I can find out about all the things that didn’t happen.  (It’s especially entertaining when it talks about Gemini’s torrid love life, because the last time I had a love life, Rumsefeld was the SecDef and Kim Kardashian was just Paris Hilton’s brunette friend.)  Sometimes, I’ll read one that is eerily accurate, but I just chalk that up to the law of large numbers and a healthy dose of the Barnum Effect.  

Clearly, my friend isn’t the only person who indulges in this pasttime/belief since they publish horoscopes in the back of every fashion magazine and in every newspaper in America.  So do you read your horoscope?  Regularly?  Sporadically?  And if so, is it simply entertainment or do you really buy in?  

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  1. KH says:

    so weird that your dad had that reaction – thats the exact one my father had too when I asked him about it (because I knew nothing about horoscopes either). Still don't!

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  2. CatG says:

    The way we humans form our belief systems is strange, isn't it? With all of our capacity for higher reasoning, we tend not to use it all that much when it comes right down to things, preferring instead to operate based on instinct, habit, or vague emotional impulses. Horoscopes are just harmless silliness IMHO, although I do tend to assume people who read them are either bit flakey, or just have a big imagination (which is not necessarily a bad thing). A lot more disturbing to me is the fact that one of our two major political parties has built into their platform and strategy not only a vocal disdain for science, but also a desire to create and promote legislation that takes its cue from a book written well over a thousand years ago in another language. Who cares about horoscopes when you've got that to contend with?

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  3. Francine says:

    Not at all. Partially because my sign — Leo — doesn't really describe me at all. I have almost none of the personality traits assigned to that sign. So it was hard to buy into the rest of if when I was a teenager and all my friends were into their horoscopes.

    I think any adult who seriously believes and follows astrology has some screws loose, to be honest. Then again, I am a non-believer in all matters.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  4. Kaylee says:

    I read horoscopes for fun only (well, 99.9% for fun, I probably buy in to them 0.1%). Of course, I think my sign describes me well and my mother and sister's sign describes them well. Even though I know this is because descriptions of signs are written in such a way that some piece of them describes the majority of people, I still find it fun.

    I agree that any adult who takes these things seriously probably has a few screws lose.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  5. H says:

    I appreciate horoscope authors' ingenuity in continually crafting “predictions” that can fit almost anyone, it's actually probably difficult to come up with new ones every week/month etc.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  6. L says:

    I read them when they're in front of me (a magazine I'm reading, for example), and purely for entertainment sake. Most of the time they're in a fashion magazine so they're predicting my dating life, which is silly, because I'm happily married. The only time I search them out is to find the one printed in the newspaper (any newspaper) on the day that my children are born, but again, for shits and giggles in their baby book, not because it has any bearing on the direction of their life. To that end, I also save what the price of a gallon of gas and a gallon of milk was for those events.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  7. CynthiaW says:

    I'll look at them for entertainment purposes only, if it's in front of me – and not even then half the time.

    It does amuse me that all the ads at the top of the page right now have to do with astrology though.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  8. Zoe says:

    I certainly read mine but I read it more for the personality profile/compatibility stuff than outright predictions. I am definitely a Scorpio but like Kaylee said, I think most of them are written in a vague way so everyone could say, oh yea thats me! One of my really dear friends is 100% in to it and I don't think less of her, but its more of a fun past time for me. I do have to admit I am into the enneagram and Myers-Briggs Personality type stuff in general, I just think it's fun!

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  9. K says:

    Don't read them or chart my own (!) but I do believe in them t least as far as relationships go… My husband is 10/5, two best friends 10/6, other close friends 10/7 and 10/2. My birthday is 1/28, 1 BFF on 1/22, another on 1/21… I also have 2 really good friends at 5/28 and 6/3. Kind of flipped out when i realized my baby would be born in august… I don't have any close friends with bdays then!

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  10. Erin says:

    Love your blog so much and completely agree that horoscopes are nonsense. I hope this doesn't come off as nit-picky but I assume by “a flaming rock” you mean a star. Stars are not flaming rocks, they are gaseous.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  11. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    My husband is so offended by horoscopes. It's crazy. I'm not inclined to believe them, but my personality fits by Scorpio profile to a T.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  12. No Drama Mama says:

    My sister is deeply into star signs. She actually says things like “So-and-so is a Leo, so you have to treat her like this or like that.” It makes it really hard to hold a conversation with her actually, partly because I doubt anyone should treat others based on a list of character traits for that month, and partly because I have no idea what the eff she's talking about.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  13. Anne says:

    Do not read, do not like.

    I have a serious aversion to letting anything so nonsensical guide actions (or even take up time). I grew up among too many religious magical thinkers who were ready to believe anything, and I think my reaction to horoscopes is related to that.

    I'm not around anyone who seriously believes, I just roll my eyes when my sister in law refers to her daughter as a typical Taurus.

    And I love Myers-Briggs. That's something else altogether…

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  14. SM says:

    I don't read my horoscope, but I do think there is something to zodiac signs. I know it sounds crazy, but I come from a family with six kids (all different signs), and the descriptions seem to fit the corresponding person (and not any other family member). However, I do not attribute this to celestial bodies. I think it has more to due with the season when someone was born, and therefore the things they were exposed to at different ages.

    Or maybe it's all just a coincidence. Meh.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  15. Joanna says:

    I don't really buy into horoscopes but if I happen across the Express or the section of the Post with horoscopes I'll look at mine and see what it says, just for the hell of it.

    Though I admit to not knowing anything about the different signs and the personality types associated with them, I don't brush off people that use them to understand friends, co-workers, family members and act in a certain way. This is probably because I'm super interested in different personality types/tests and how we can use them to be more self-aware and communicate/interact better with others. I love Myers-Briggs, True Colors, and my new favorite is The 5 Love Languages.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  16. ellabella says:

    I used to think horoscopes were total bunk, not least because I never felt I “fit the description” for my sign. Then a good friend who believes in the stuff a bit more told me about moon signs — which are calibrated to the day and time of your birth. Somehow everything I've read about my moon sign seems to make a bit more sense (you can find yours here: https://www.moonsigncalendar.net/moon-sign.htm). Of course, in both cases I think there's an element of wish fulfillment: we WANT to believe that there's some reason for the way we are — that there's a kind of dictionary where we can look up the exogenous forces that might explain the things we are or even the things we like less about ourselves. It's perfectly human. For me, horoscopes are a little bit enticing but not too convincing.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  17. lacy in the sky says:

    Alexander Dumas is the best. I prefer the Onion horoscopes:

    Libra
    Your pessimism and negativity are usually misplaced, but they'll be perfectly appropriate when your elevator plunges into flames Thursday.

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  18. Sam says:

    Like many who've already posted, I'm a bit of horoscope skeptic, but I was raised by a complete horoscope believer. Before I was born, my mother had her sign read regularly and my mom credited her with guiding her towards my dad whom she married. When she was pregnant with me, the reader told my mom that if I was an Aries or an Aquarius we would never get along. My mom took this reading so seriously that she told her OBGYN that I had to be a Pisces in order for us to get along. Fortunately, I was born in the Pisces time period and my mother and I were very close. So who knows, maybe there's some truth to it?

    November 4, 2011/Reply
  19. M says:

    My closest friend and I used to read them every month in our favourite magazine's like clockwork. She pretty much believed in them because they were almost always true for her. I just read them for fun and amusement. Horoscopes are not really something I see to take seriously.

    November 5, 2011/Reply
  20. Caroline says:

    My girlfriend is Indian, and her culture is obsessed with astrology. A marriage won't take place unless the astrological charts of both parties have been thoroughly reviewed and deemed to be acceptable, and the date of the wedding is decided based on the positioning of the stars. My partner is not that extreme in her beliefs, but she thinks it's wonderful that we're both Scorpios. I still remain a skeptic of the whole thing. I did have her astrologer relative do my complete horoscope when I was in India. Even for a non-believer like me that was an interesting experience.

    November 7, 2011/Reply
  21. KRF says:

    I have been following Susan Miller at astrologyzone.com for over 10 years. Her horoscopes incorporate career/professional life, personal life, and family. For me, astrology is one of many tools (such as yoga and meditation) that I use to navigate my way through life–especially the tough parts. I like Susan Miller's approach because it is not about predicting the future but really about understanding disruptions, inbalances, and various energies in our lives caused by the positioning of the planets. Sometimes she raises questions that I had never thought about. While Susan does contribute to Elle magazine's horoscopes, the horoscopes she posts on her Web site are quite detailed and less playful than perhaps the horopscopes often posted in magazines. Hope this is helpful.

    November 7, 2011/Reply