Astrology has a long history of providing people with the sense of certainty that they crave during uncertain times. The mystical practice has its roots in the calendrical systems and celestial cycles used to predict seasonal shifts as early as the second millennium BCE, but it first reached mainstream audiences in the West in the wake of the Great Depression, when the Sunday Express ran the first astrology-themed newspaper column predicting what the stars foretold for the newly born Princess Margaret. It was so popular that the paper made the column a regular feature, and so the sun-sign horoscope that we’re all so familiar with today was born.
As a new age practice that rose to prominence in tandem with the decline of organised religion, astrology has always resonated with certain pockets of the population. More recently, it has experienced a surge in popularity not seen since the 70s, primarily among everyone’s favourite age group to accuse of being self-absorbed: millennials. “New spirituality is the new norm,” trend forecasting company WGSN declared in its 2017 report on millennials and spirituality, which tracked trends such as full-moon parties and alternative therapies. Similarly, a 2018 report by IBISWorld found that Americans spend as much $2.2 billion every year on mystical services including palmistry and tarot reading.
“Millennial and Gen-Z audiences get kind of a bad rap on self-interest, but there is a more interesting story around the search for identity and one’s place in the world, and I think astrology offers a way to reflect both inward and outward. There’s certainly a more playful piece of identity predominantly expressed on social which is ‘I’m a Leo and these are my traits’ or ‘I’m a Scorpio and these are my traits’ but there is also this really serious component [of using] your chart as a way of filtering or looking at yourself,” says Ross Clark, co-founder of astrology app Sanctuary.