Why astrology?

I grew up in a family where implicitly, spirituality and science seemed to be valued in equal measure, and were never presented as conflicting with each other. I was as familiar with medical terminology and programming lingo as I was with strange concepts like rocks having energies, or birth charts, or prayer rituals. I was influenced by doctors and nurses who kept astrology books in the house and saw religious mentors for guidance and saw boardwalk psychics for fun. I was a voracious reader as a child and felt at home in the digital spaces of the early internet. So I would scour these small libraries of horoscope books and then dive into the Internet for more and more information.

I remember a specific memory from when I must have been about 10. Over chai, while sorting through photos of when my grandparents immigrated here in the 70s, a family member pulled up some old Vedic-style natal charts. Each had been composed personally for each member of the family on the day of their birth. They were not so much supposed to be a predictor of major events or a flat readout of personality traits. (Those are the kind of “birth chart readings” I see floating around Facebook groups and Twitter threads today, where astrology is like a pond that more and more people casually edge closer to, hoping to see a glance of themselves with pure clarity in completely still water.) The way I remember understanding natal charts would also be through water, but like a sail — that tried to account for and describe and react to the inevitable movement in the water. They were supposed to be a helpful guideline of possible traps and gifts — an overlay over the shape of decisions that formed one’s life, like a map of emotion and transformation.

The air of mystery around these symbols and lines sparked a very particular kind of inquisitiveness in me. I wanted to understand how the gurus in temples (and mystics in prayer books and bleach-blonde chart readers smelling of sea and Marlboros in mirrored rooms down the shore) determined the information they crafted in these documents. I wanted to translate its meaning more exactly and see how it worked.

I kept a bookmark on my computer for a website that spit out birth chart data, and was constantly processing them for my friends and family — part out of boredom, part curiosity. I investigated each point and absorbed all of these different terms and techniques for understanding what I was looking at. Eventually, I started keeping notes and editing, then coming up with my own observations for tracking these ebbs and flows in people’s lives and their effects as told by the stars. I didn’t realize until much later that you might say I had been keeping data and hypothesizing patterns through this practice, which my friends all knew as just a weird and obscure quirk of mine.

In many ancient systems around the world, science and spirit were never separated, and mystics were revered as bearers of both. Worldwide, the ones who took part of this learning, whether they were a town priest or scientist, would look out to the night sky to better understand the world, and they had the same experience I did — they cultivated a love and respect for the strangeness and character of the universe, the personalities of the planets, and the spiritual natures of the stars. Even Galileo, who today has been claimed as a father of a particular kind of secularized science, wrote very emotionally about his feelings for Jupiter as an astrological body when he observed it and its moons.

I was raised Hindu, but lost my religion for a brief time when I was a teenager and reading a lot of philosophy, basically. It eventually chased me back down through weird moods and certain friendships, and I started reading charts again. They just made sense to me, and I found them entertaining to share with my friends, who often “didn’t believe in it” but would ask me 800 million questions about it anyway.

I could never vouch for the inarguable truthfulness of astrology, even though at this point I’ve been studying it for the majority of my life. Even if, let’s say, it does work on a 100% scientific level, I don’t know how to explain its mechanisms, and I’m not particularly interested in speculating about how it works. But believing without knowing isn’t an unusual thing, even for the most rational among us. For me, it is not important to look to astrology for hard-cut and definite answers. I am not interested in approaching it by ascribing absolute causation to the observations it makes. Instead, I have found a number of useful aspects of it that make it extremely cherished to me as a practice.

I believe the mere act of associating concepts and stories and qualities between faster-moving and more dynamic parts like people and events often helps me to synthesize what’s true and what’s not. I think the exercise of doing that helps me learn more about the world, and other people, and myself — by deeply reflecting on them and sorting through all the information that’s out there, by comparing and saying “yes that’s it” or “no that’s wrong and I have to identify what’s really going on.” I think reading charts as a teenager helped me to develop more empathy and understanding for others, because I learned to practice and acknowledge the respectful observance and validation of difference — difference in our makeups, our beings, our experiences, and how we are shaped by the continual act of moving through the world and time. And at times, I have simply found it profoundly healing as a way of processing events and their emotions by giving me a space — outside of right here on Earth — to think and connect and problem-solve, as well as feel. I see very often people describe astrology as a ruthless and rigid practice of “is” and “is not” that characterizes people and boxes up events. That is a grave misreading of the practice, and a defeatist way of understanding what it has to say. It is a way of thinking that I believe opens you up to possibilities and ways out (from yourself, your situations, everything about your world that makes you feel boxed in) that you wouldn’t have seen before. I hope by learning more about astrology with me here, that you’ll get to have some of these experiences too.