First things first: What is astrology, exactly?
Put simply, astrology is the study of how planetary activity mirrors and foreshadows earthly events.
Cultures all over the world have studied the relationship between the sky and life on Earth. The astrological tradition we practice today dates back to the techniques developed in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, before the Common Era (aka BCE), when the two civilizations began cross-pollinating. Both regions had innovated unique approaches to observing the night sky, and those approaches merged during the Hellenistic period (that is, the first few centuries on either side of the Common Era), creating a cohesive new system. This age-old practice, which still forms the bedrock of modern astrology, incorporates four main components:
Every astrological chart is constructed from these building blocks. It consists of a wheel divided into 12 zodiac signs, which align with 12 houses (or areas of life). These signs and houses are populated with planets, which are all in relationship to each other. Over the millennia that astrology has existed, sky-gazers have worked with the components of these astrological charts to understand myriad aspects of our lives — from people’s personalities to politics. That said, there are many different types of astrology. Like the branches that fan out from the trunk of the tree, these areas of study share the same base, but each is distinct. The main branches are:
- Natal astrology focuses on your birth chart — the snapshot of the sky at the moment of your birth — and reveals your gifts, challenges, tendencies, and purpose.
- Mundane astrology analyzes the cycles and patterns in the sky and compares them to historical, social, and political events on Earth.
- Horary astrology casts a chart to divine an answer to a pressing question (similar to tarot reading — but with the planets).
- Electional astrology helps people “elect” (or choose) an auspicious date for an important event, such as a wedding or business launch.
- Relationship astrology brings two or more birth charts together to review how their placements interact, and how the individuals involved will connect with each other as a result.
Now that we’ve established what astrology is, let’s turn to how it sheds insight into our missions in life, our relationships, and the timing of major events.
How does astrology work?
For as long as there have been astrologers, there have been people debating how astrology works. Unsurprisingly, there is no definitive answer, but that’s part of the magic.
Rooted in principles of geometry and astronomy, astrology is built upon both an intricate logic and a premise of magical thinking — which isn’t a reason to discount it. Belief in what we now describe as supernatural, such as the link between planets and events on Earth, predates human record keeping. It wasn’t until the rise of the church in the first millennium that it left a bad taste in people’s mouths — when magic, astrology, alchemy, and related crafts were deemed heretical and sinful. Later, during the Age of Reason, between the 17th and 19th centuries, these studies shifted from being considered unholy to mostly laughable, because many thinkers during this period were rooting science in exclusively observable, material experience. Anything more elusive than what we could see, touch, or demonstrate went out with the laboratory bath water. Still, some astrologers have attempted to substantiate their craft through science, exploring rationale around the “rays” beamed by planets (in the case of Porphyry in the late 3rd century CE) and, more recently, how the planets’ gravitational pulls might affect earthly activity. Again, there has always been debate about how and why astrology works, but some of the traditional theories of astrology are simpler and more elegant. They center around the ancient Hermetic principle: As above, so below. As within, so without. Meaning, we don’t know why exactly, but the movement of celestial bodies (“above”) mirrors life on Earth (“below”).
For example, centuries of astrological observation have connected the planet Mars with heat, inflammation, conflict, sharpness, separation, competition, and anger. That’s partly due to Mars’ color in the sky — glowing red, especially around the time of its retrograde — and partly due to generations of astrologers noticing what happens during a Mars transit. Because of this planet’s association with heat, sharpness, etc., it’s said to preside over spiky plants, breakups, sparring matches, hot sauce, scalpels, and chef knives — the manifestation of those Mars-like qualities on Earth. Mars doesn’t cause these things to exist, but it shares a likeness with them. Similarly, astrological transits (or planetary movements) don’t generate world events, and the planets and points in our birth chart don’t create our personality or life purpose. They merely possess a correspondence to these things — like a map or a key — which helps us make sense of our own life experiences as they unfold.
While skeptics suggest that horoscopes only ring true due to confirmation bias — which astrologers can be liable to from time to time — that’s not a reason to dismiss it out of hand. The overlap between astrology and life on Earth is uncannily connected, far beyond wishful thinking, even if we can’t explain it. And the benefits of astrology are profound: This study helps us make sense of life’s trials and triumphs. It supports us in finding meaning and connecting with a sense of deeper purpose. That’s why it’s important to track the skies for yourself, gather your own data, and develop your own opinions. At its core, astrology is a way for us to examine our experiences and give them context. It’s a tool to self-reflect and reclaim agency over our lives. It’s not about the planets making decisions for us, or telling us which paths to choose; it’s about honoring our multitudes, as illustrated by the many facets of our birth charts. Astrology doesn’t limit the narratives it offers us. On the contrary, there are endless depths to explore. We’re not at the whim of these far-off planets, but if we pay attention, we can witness them reflecting our life’s complex stories back to us.
But don’t just take our word for it — delve in for yourself. Tunnel into your own research rabbit holes and learn what others have to say. Then sit with your own thoughts and observations. It’s the only way to form your own relationship with astrology. But, of course, we’ll be here to offer guidance and information along the way. To get started, download the CHANI app.