Written in stars: Astrology piques campus interest

By Sidney Madden, Longform Editor || Assistant Features Editor

If you log on to any social media platform, you will likely find astrology memes floating around, telling you Scorpios are canceled or that it is #LibraSeason. Social media, for so many niche groups, has broadened the exposure of astrology while also connecting people with similar interests. According to practicing astrologers, the astrology we see online is often generalized and not useful. 

Dave Mockaitis, a University alumnus and present-day astrologer, explains while social media ultimately exposes the practice to more people, it also spreads astrological misinformation. 

“It’s easy to mistake the social media posts for real astrology when it’s more like an introduction or an exploration,” he said.  

Astrologers analyze birth charts which primarily display the positions of the sun, moon and ascendent (zodiac sign that rose on the eastern horizon) signs at the time of birth. From this information, astrologers say they can figure out an individual’s personality and life trajectory. 

Mockaitis said many social media posts are based on over-generalizations of sun signs. Not all Geminis act a certain way because people are dynamic, he said. Even looking at the whole chart, he said astrologers can be wrong because “there is always a margin of error.” 

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Even with this margin of error, however, he said most astrologers will deliver the same information to clients because they are interpreting from the same chart. He does not personally claim to know what exactly will happen in an individual’s life, but he can and does identify time periods where there seems to be patterns of great happiness, strife, etc. 

“When we take into account the whole tapestry of the chart,” Mockaitis said, “then we’re really going to get into the nuanced descriptions that are accurate and relatable as well.” 

Brandi Tomlinson, sophomore in LAS and programming chair of the RSO Women of Color, has long found comfort in astrology. As a result, she felt inclined to plan an astrology-themed event for her club. 

Tomlinson said she is mostly drawn to astrology out of her desire to understand others, especially if she is interested in them romantically. 

At the event, Tomlinson said over 20 members came to learn about the signs and get a reading. Her sister Bee reads tarot cards and is a practicing psychic based in Chicago. Tomlinson called her in to give a reading to the group. Bee also appreciates how astrology helps her understand others and herself better.

“Being self-aware and being aware of others is very important to me,” she said in an email. “With astrology, I feel like I’m able to pick up on people’s personality traits or views, and I can pinpoint why they are the way they are.” 

Melanie Archipley, graduate student in LAS and secretary of the Society for Equity in Astronomy RSO, said it is important to draw a distinction between astronomy, a science, and astrology, which she describes as “closer to a belief system.” 

“Astrology and astronomy were nearly one and the same until the rise of testing scientific predictions,” she wrote in an email. 

Archipley said to make major life decisions based solely on astrology is dangerous, but he ultimately “support(s) people for whom astrology makes them feel comforted or closer to the universe in some way.” 

However, Mockaitis said astrology does not need people to believe in it for it to work. 

“It doesn’t mean you need to believe time is something like this or that there are gods in the sky or the planets exert influences or anything like that,” he said. “It’s just kind of looking at a clock.” 

Mockaitis also said there are certain ages throughout our lives where there are generally patterns of great change, including at 21.

“There is kind of a claiming of independence,” he said. “It can feel a pretty dynamic year in terms of how we set ourselves apart from the expectations people set for us.” 

Astrology can be a deeply spiritual practice for some, a worldview for others or both. Ultimately, Mockaitis looks at astrology as a way to measure time. 

“What I think astrology is really good at is telling time,” he said. “Astrology is a qualitative approach to timekeeping.”

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