Written in the stars: students look to astrology for fate and fortune


Maeve Goldman , Staff Writer

“If you write something down three times in blue pen it won’t come true, but I do think that if you have confidence and believe the universe is on your side, you can accomplish lots of things,” Niki Pande (10) said. “I don’t believe in the actual practice of manifesting but I do believe in the mindset of manifestation — practicing confidence is something everyone should do.”

Astrology is the belief that the planetary alignment of the solar system influences individuals’ characteristics and actions. It encompasses a set of divine practices including the analysis of horoscopes, manifestation, and palm readings.

Astrology dates back to the second millennium BCE in Babylonian society, history teacher Peter Reed said. Recently, interest in astrology and applications of the practice have gained popularity in the US, with Google searches of “birth chart” and “astrology” reaching the highest number of searches in five years in 2020, according to the BBC.

This renewed interest in astrology follows a general pattern of increased engagement with the metaphysical and questions of meaning during times of uncertainty, Reed said. “The pandemic disrupted all of our habits, routines, and the status quo,” he said. “It forced us to start asking questions. Everyone responds to those disruptions in different ways, but a very typical response is to look for answers or ask questions.” Astrology served as a way of looking for such answers during the COVID outbreak, he said.  

Pande first encountered astrology when she was bored during lockdown, she said. “In middle school during COVID, I was looking for a hobby or passion to obsess over because I had so much free time.” Looking on Instagram and seeing a lot of videos about horoscopes and astrological signs made Pande curious about her own birth chart, she said.

While Pande does not believe in every aspect of astrology, the prevalence of coincidences in her life and others’ lives has prompted her to believe in the practice to some extent, she said. “Sometimes things line up a little too accurately — for example, Tauruses are chill and calm, and I thought about people in my life who I knew were Taurus and it matched up perfectly to almost every single one of them,” she said. 

Riya Daga (12) also appreciates the culture of horoscopes and manifestation, although she is not a firm believer in astrology. “I’m not super into astrology and I have my reservations about how true it is but I do believe in it to an extent,” Daga said. “There is no harm in believing in things like manifestation or horoscopes as it can only benefit me.”

Horoscopes, charts based on astrological signs, are a key part of Daga’s relationship to astrology, she said. “My mom and grandmother are really into it.” Horoscopes are used anywhere from finding a potential partner in India to which day you should start your year-long paper in history, Daga said. 

Recently, astrology has increased in popularity due to increased access via social media, Pande said. During quarantine, Pande created an astrology Instagram account with Catherine Mong (10), which eventually grew a following of 11,000 people. “We were pretty popular – one of our videos got two million views and it was definitely fun to research and incorporate what we learned in our posts,” Pande said. “We got a lot of DMs from other astrology influencers who asked us to collaborate, a bunch of offers from stores asking us to promote astrology related goods like jewelry, and we even had a fanpage.” 

However, Pande has also encountered toxic uses of manifestation on social media, she said. “I see a lot of really toxic manifestation stuff, trying to make people obsessed with you or getting revenge,” Pande said. “IThat is extremely harmful and totally unhealthy. I don’t think anyone should be trying to cast a love spell.”

Clio Rao (12) does not believe in horoscopes at all. “Honestly, I think a lot of millennials view astrology as their form of religion,” Rao said. However, Rao does not share this belief. “I’ve just always been a really cynical person, and I think a lot of astrology is fueled by confirmation bias, which I don’t really like.” Confirmation bias is when an individual considers evidence as confirmation of their existing beliefs or theories, even if there is no correlation.

For Jisang Kymm (11), astrology is inconceivable. “Just because you’re born in a certain month, your traits can’t be determined,” Kymm said. “It’s not rooted in reality and it’s based on things that are made up or illogical without mathematical or logical bases.” 

“I think the concept that your birthday has anything to do with your personality or future destiny is completely unfounded,” Braden Queen (12)  said. “Although it may be fun to pretend that we can predict the future with astrology, it definitely is pseudoscience.”

Rao also does not believe in manifestation, although she does see more logic to manifestation than astrology. “The concept of having some sort of external grasp on what may happen can be almost reassuring,” Rao said. “Maybe this is a stretch, but I feel like people also can conflate manifestation with instances in which you really just need to work to get something.”

Kymm agrees that faith can yield positive outcomes, even if astrology itself is not true. “Manifestation can serve as a motivator or clarify a goal to aspire to,” he said. “But that’s all it is – a psychological device, not something that can actually produce results.”

For those who are not strong believers, astrology has become a fun but insignificant aspect of their daily lives, Rao said. “I’ll gently tease my friends who are into it, and sometimes for fun, I’ll look up traits or compatibility associated with my sign.” she said. “But I really take it with less than a grain of salt.”

Blind belief in manifestation can have negative consequences on a person’s life, Joann Yu (11) said. “If you try to use astrology to explain everything your life will go off the rails and you’re never going to figure out why,” she said. “You are just going to blame your problems on some random thing in the sky.”

Although today’s perception of astrology is connected with millennials and the internet, its roots date back to cultural customs, Christine Tao (11) said. “I guess I kind of believe in zodiacs, but in a Chinese sense because it was part of my upbringing and cultural context,” she said. “Chinese zodiacs, compared to our western understanding, are a bit more general and aren’t attributed with as much of our characters and personalities.”

Astrology is a part of the foundations of other societies as well, Reed said. “[Historians] have records of astrological texts and forms of divination,” he said. “The idea of reading the stars in order to discern the will of god, predict the future, and gain that kind of knowledge is common and widespread in a lot of different cultures and societies.”

Hinduism also has similarities to manifestation practices, Pande said. “When you go to a temple, there are specific gods that represent specific qualities — for example, one for strength and one for intelligence,” she said. “If you pray to a specific god you are asking them to give you that characteristic, like in manifestation. It’s this mindset that if you believe enough, these good things could happen to you.” 

In Daga’s family, belief in astrology has been passed down to her from her grandmother and mother as a way to strengthen her connection to Jainism and Hinduism, she said. “I don’t engage in astrology much but my mother will tell me ‘today is a good day to do this’ or ‘make sure you do this today.’ In my culture there are a lot of superstitious days where it’s an auspicious day to start something new or do certain things,” she said. For example, on Dhanteras, which is the first day of Diwali, it is highly recommended to buy silver or gold jewelry.

While Pande appreciates the positivity associated with astrology and manifestation, she no longer believes in astrology, Pande said. “Seventh grade me was pretty gullible.” she said. “I believed that astrology was real, but after hearing other people’s perspectives, I’ve seen the light. The day you are born on can’t determine your personality.” 

Rao’s stance on manifestation and astrology has not changed so far, she said. “I sort of think this is all really outlandish and totally strays from any sort of realm of possibility,” she said. “But lately, I’ve really been trying hard to be less of a cynical person. So who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll get into it.”