Turning to the Stars

Artwork by Kate Nugent.

On a humid August day, the ceiling in Julia Simioni’s bedroom collapsed.

It had rained for several days beforehand and the house she lived in with her boyfriend and two other roommates was very old with a flimsy roof that couldn’t withstand harsh weather conditions.

There are a lot of reasons that explain why the roof fell through, but any simple rationale wasn’t enough for her. She questioned if it was karma, or something the universe was trying to tell her. In search of answers, she turned to the stars.

“I wasn’t satisfied with just knowing it was the rain,” said Simioni, a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University. “I needed something deeper; something to give me comfort that the roof won’t fall through in every house I’m in.”

Simioni only isn’t the only one who turns to the sky for answers. Astrology, the pseudoscientific study of the movement celestial bodies, aims to understand how the positions of these bodies impact our lives. It has become increasingly popular among young millenials in recent years, with pages dedicated to making memes out of the star signs popping up on social media and students opting to study their birth charts instead of their notes. The last time there was such an interest in astrology among young people was during the hippie movement of the 1960s and 70s in an era known as the “Age of Aquarius,” which symbolizes new beginnings and celebrated life in the face of Cold War-era political turmoil.

While a lot of people look to the universe for the answers they can’t find themselves, the practice of astrology has come under fire several times over the past decades — the sweeping generalizations of horoscopes and the phenomenons such as retrograde, which involves the movement and speed of a planet’s rotation around the sun and is often rumoured to be a time where everything in one’s life can go wrong.

The questions that is often raised among skeptics is, “just how real is astrology?” How much trust can you put into the stars? When do you stop looking to the universe for answers and instead turn to real, tangible things?

For psychology student Deniz Saygili, his interest in astrology piqued when he learned what horoscopes were; however, he was very skeptical about their validity.

“I started reading horoscopes and thought, ‘how can someone else tell me who the hell I am?’”

As he did more research about astrology in relation to religion, he began to see it as more of a belief system rather than shallow presumptions based on someone’s zodiac sign. “It had to do a lot with the idea of a higher power or something connected to a higher consciousness” he said.

Saygili, an Aquarius, says his sign is seen as “aloof and distant”, but are also seen as leaders. However, rather than let cookie-cutter horoscope traits define who is, he uses them for inspiration to find himself.

“You can use it to see what your discrepancy is from your sign and look into understanding yourself, like what you’re passionate about. Those kind of things can go a long way into understanding different parts of ourselves, even minor things,” said Saygili.

In the case of Simioni, who is a Taurus, she uses astrology as a tool for reflection. “I’m in a period of transformation and in terms of what I want to do with school or my career. I feel like I’ve stepped into like the circle where you start to want to actively change stuff rather than just dwelling on it.”

To her, astrology is a wise, older voice that gives her advice; sort of like an older sister. “When something is happening in my life, the first person I text is my older sister and she’ll usually give me very critical, motherly advice. My zodiac sign is almost like a second person that I can talk to, telling me what I want to hear, probably be more passive and there to say, ‘You’re doing okay.’”

Liz Worth, a tarot card reader and astrologist, resonates with Simioni and Saygili using astrology to soul search. “People continuously try to gain some kind of deeper control, deeper understanding about who they are, what they came here to do within this lifetime, and how they can direct their own paths and destinies. Because there can be so much struggle to find your place in the world.”

However, she cautions people not to let go of their inhibitions and fully trust the moons and planets, but rather to use them as a guideline in trying to carve your their path in life and know what is best for you in the long run. “If we don’t have that sense of self awareness, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to really know who we are or what motivates us.  You can do astrology all day long, but if you’re not willing to actually grow, it really won’t help you.”

So, what’s the truth? Do the stars, moons and planets really dictate the path of your life, or is holding onto more tangible things a better option? While the legitimacy of astrology has been ruled out by science, there is no denying that there’s a strong belief system around it and many people find it compelling.

Maybe putting your trust in the universe once in a while could be a good thing.