Many people’s relationship with astrology is tense, to say the least. On one hand, we love the ability of our horoscope to make us feel seen for our positive personality traits and to validate our easy-to-ignore gut feelings about a certain person (see: “I knew I didn’t like her, she’s a Virgo!”). On the other hand, we use it as a way to make speedy judgments that we trust will be accurate; because people have been using that same mentality since the beginning of humanity (see also: “I knew I didn’t like her, she’s a Virgo!”).
Only, it’s not always logical or helpful to lean on snap judgments because they can be wrong, i.e., “wow, I didn’t think I’d like her because I don’t normally like Sagittariuses, but she’s GREAT!” I think you get the point. Sometimes things get even more complicated when we allow commercialized or watered-down versions of astrology to dictate the way we live our lives generally (i.e., “Oh well Libras supposedly make great lawyers so I’ll be a lawyer” or “My horoscope says to avoid the color purple today”).
Even with this conflict, astrology can be a valuable tool for self-development and connecting with others if we allow it. Let me explain.
You Are More Than Just Your Sun Sign: You have a whole Birth Chart!
Most people’s understanding of astrology stops at their sun sign– but the truth is, you have a “sign” for every planet in the solar system (think: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas; and yes, Pluto still counts here). Each planet represents a specific type of “energy”, or rather an aspect of your personality that is universal to all humans. For example, you have a Mercury zodiac sign. Mercury is the planet named after the Roman Messenger God and is known for the speed it travels around the sun. It’s considered the planet that rules communication, thought, messages, and the like, so if you want to understand what the planets represent, think about who or what they’re named after! Communication and thought are vital to human expression, so your Mercury sign is how you’ll communicate and think (this is definitely the very beginning of the baseline, so look more into this if you’re interested).
The point is, because you have a sign for every planet in the solar system, you have different expressions of all of the things that make you human– and really, that’s kind of a beautiful thing. For instance, let’s say you’re a Gemini sun, but your Mercury is in Cancer so you don’t really “talk” like the typical Gemini stereotype (loud, fast, ‘put your foot in your mouth’ in an endearing way). With a Mercury in Cancer, your speech and thought processes are a bit more gentle, protective, and thorough. Instead of feeling boxed in and limited by all the Gemini traits, you can get to know that Cancer-esque part of you. It’s the perfect opportunity for self-reflection, and a beautiful chance to deepen your connection to self.
You Have Many Signs, and Therefore Many Sides!
The presence of so many signs in our Birth Charts means that we carry a multitude of personality traits that are all two-sided: they each have a positive and negative side. What our Birth Charts can really do for us, if we’re open to it, is to help us get comfortable with all of the aspects of our personalities: even the ones we hate and think shouldn’t be there. Getting to know the dark and light side of us, and therefore the sides of most humans is something we can do with many things: personality tests, buzzfeed quizzes, the list goes on and on. But with astrology, this process can feel a little more intimate because it’s almost like you can’t really overthink it and fudge your responses to questions. Instead, we can see ourselves up close and personal, if the things in our Birth Charts resonate, that is.
I know, I know, many of the astrology traits highlighted in the birth chart are super general– but isn’t that the point? Astrology (kind of like Mythology, Tarot, etc.) is an attempt to describe the human condition and the essence of humanity itself– it’s supposed to be general. Rather than seeing this “general application” as a bad thing, it might be helpful to use it to relate to others instead. After all, humanity is so incredibly complex– and as a part of humanity, we’re complex too! Shouldn’t it make sense that these complexities overlap? And doesn’t that connection to humanity feel kind of… good? This kind of reminds me of a quote from the first ever psychology textbook I read: We are all, in certain respects, like all others, like some others, and like no other! Our Birth Charts highlight how unique we are, without erasing our connection to all of the humans we’ll encounter in our lives.
For me, seeing how the signs in my chart relate to others makes me feel less alone, and it helps me relate: Like yes, I may “hate” Cancers (I actually don’t lol), but I also have Cancer in my birth chart, so maybe there’s a part of me that’s just like them, and maybe seeing that part of me in someone else makes me feel bad about it. But, if I try to apply compassion to that Cancerian person, maybe I can learn to have compassion for that part of me too.
Your Birth Chart is your Blueprint, but you Still Have to do the Work!
While your Birth Chart doesn’t excuse your behaviors (let’s read that again, friends), it can show you the behaviors you tend to default to without thinking. Bare minimum, it can make you think about your default behaviors when you ask, “Hmm, is this something I really do?” And maybe, metacognition, and being thoughtful about the manifestation of all of our personality traits, is a great way to start to take responsibility for who we are, and who we want to be. I’ll give an example: My Mars sign (the planet of war, aggression, conflict, action, so on) is in Cancer. The negative manifestation of this placement is that I have a tendency for passive aggression and holding my tongue, and allowing the flow of life to take me places I secretly don’t want to go. Oh and moodiness is a thing with this placement too! I didn’t want to admit that I had these parts to me– I resented the Birth Chart placement and immediately dismissed it. Until I got a little more reflective and open-minded about the placement.
I decided to stop seeing this placement as an insult on my conflict management, and when I did I was able to own the parts of me that are, in fact, passive-aggressive (this is still VERY hard to admit, btw). By accepting that sometimes, my default can be passive aggression and moodiness, I can accept my role as an agent in my own fate. I can work to notice when I am passive-aggressive more often, or when my moodiness is clouding my judgment, and then do my best to minimize that behavior. AND, on the days I am unable to minimize it, I can accept my fault and apologize when people around me highlight that the behavior is hurting them. I have found that having an awareness of my faults makes it easier to apologize for them when other people notice them too. I think that the most beautiful part of astrology is that when you learn your blueprint, you can feel empowered to know yourself fully and see yourself. And you can let others see you too!
Astrology can be the Ultimate Ice Breaker
My absolutely favorite part of astrology is using it as a tool to get people to talk about their personality traits in a low-pressure, open-minded way (again, let’s be open-minded about this: I promise the Gemini’s in your life will thank you). I like to ask people what their sign is to open up a conversation like it’s the 70s again! Sometimes, people will clam up and get uncomfortable– but that can be an invitation to ask them why they’re uncomfortable. Usually, the reason is fear of judgment or missing out on a potentially valuable connection because of the way the sky looked when they were born. And I’ve found that when you give people the space to talk about their sign without judgment, they feel more open about talking about themselves.
Sometimes, people will say what their sign is. And sometimes they’ll identify with it, and sometimes they won’t. Either way, talking about it is a moment to ask why they identify with (or don’t identify with) that part of themselves, and learning what they do identify with. And in the process of asking that question, I’ve learned so much about so many people! Even without that many details, I’ve learned that when you give people an opportunity to define themselves for themselves, they have a lot to say. When we use astrology as a springboard for understanding ourselves and others, rather than as a cold system that we should blindly follow, we give ourselves and the people in our lives the space to feel seen fully in our personal lives, and in our relationship to humanity as a whole.
A Blueprint to Humanity
I’ll finish by emphasizing that YOU know you better than anyone else ever will: you live inside of your head every day, you know your most intimate thoughts. I say that to say, if your birth chart doesn’t resonate, or if in general astrology isn’t something for you, that is absolutely okay! You don’t need to feel pressure to identify with something just because others do. I’ll also finish by emphasizing that we should be careful with things like astrology: I myself have made the mistake of using it to paint one-dimensional images of people I was looking for justification to not like, and at my worst I’ve used it to satisfy my inability to go through life without answers.
And still: when we are flexible, I think that learning our birth charts can at least prompt a level of reflection inside of us, and encourage us to ask ourselves hard questions about who we are, the stuff we are made of, and how that stuff relates to the stuff of others. Even better, it can be a fun exercise. Astrology is deeply connected to other attempts to understand our humanity, and seeing those connections can help us to develop a deeper appreciation for what it means to be human at this time on Earth.
I believe that astrology can be a tool to understand the various archetypes that makeup humanity, and therefore ourselves. Rather than using astrology for judgment or assumptions, we can use it to better understand our complex inner lives. Even better, we can use it as a means of relating to the complex inner lives of other people. I’m not an official astrologer so I’ll note that it’s important to deep dive into astrology texts if you can/ are interested, and I’ll also note that we should do so with respect for the cultures it originated from, and respect for our own inner world (once it stops feeling okay, you are absolutely allowed to divest). But in that deep dive, I suspect you’ll find that there’s so much more to astrology than just passing judgment on the Gemini’s in our lives.
Vanessa is a third-year graduate student studying Psychology at Rutgers University, with a passion for all thing’s wellness, research, creativity and empathy. In her spare time, Vanessa enjoys learning guitar, reading and writing fiction stories as forms of expression and vulnerability. Vanessa can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.