Stars in Our Eyes: Why Astrology Is Back in a Big Way

If it’s been like forever since you paid any attention to sun signs, let me be the first to share some news: Astrology is back in a big way. It has changed, however. Less woo-woo, more whoa. The horoscopes, zodiac charts, and tarot cards aren’t materially different from what you may remember of them. What’s happened is that the planets have aligned for sellers and buyers to rediscover — and merge — astrology’s long-advertised life-coaching powers and its commercial potency. Respectfully, its moon is currently in the house of moolah.

As if to affirm what I’ve observed, a big-time TV producer recently mentioned to me, “I notice that our ratings spike every time we use a zodiac piece as our show’s lead.”

I grew up with horoscopes in newspapers and magazines advising me to “Be on the lookout for opportunities in the realm of love” — that type of hugely insightful guidance. These days, with earnest astrology academies beckoning students and the internet enticing billions of others, we’ve entered a new era. Astrology is once again a cultural phenomenon, and it’s more addictive than ever.

In its various forms — especially the ever-popular natal charts — astrology is today the sole focus of thousands of podcasts, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, mobile apps, newsletters, and streaming videos, plus, it has been reported, more than two million websites. Clever entrepreneurs have taken note. Want to buy sun-sign PJs? Or stay in a zodiac-themed hotel? You can. Care for a cuppa zodiac coffee? No prob. As for me, a Libra, I freely admit I wouldn’t know if Mercury was in retrograde or Gatorade.

“This generation is wrapping itself in the blanket of the zodiac to try to make sense of a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams.”

Troublingly, a large percentage of astrology devotees regard it not so much as an amusement but as actual science. It is not. Nor is it a religion. (Amazon’s smarty-pants Alexa, when asked about astrology, has been known to answer, “It’s superstition.”) Let’s not debate that. The more pertinent question is, Why is astrology hotter than a streaking meteor?

In difficult times (these qualify), people go looking for explanations and salve. Sometimes they retreat to faith; sometimes they join cults. And sometimes they find astrology. Richard Smoot, a spokesman for the International Society for Astrological Research, had a ready-made answer when I asked about newbies: “So much is going on in people’s lives these days, so much pressure to act or react, and they typically just want to sort things out.” More than anything, this is why people in crisis are drawn to astrology and its gentle guidance in matters of love, finance, and career, Smoot told me.

He also confirmed what I’ve been hearing for months — that it’s millennials, mostly women, who account for the surge in astrology’s popularity. Earlier this year, a Canadian reporter, having talked to the CEO of a highly trafficked astrology site (Co-Star), wrote, “This generation is wrapping itself in the blanket of the zodiac to try to make sense of a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams.”

So, getting back to the TV executive producer I mentioned earlier. Her name is Tracy Mazuer, she’s a Leo, and her nationally syndicated pop-culture show is The List. It does not seek to make us whole. When someone at a staff meeting first suggested doing a zodiac segment, she told me, “there was kind of an eye roll.” But the topic has been a recurrent winner. The most highly rated piece: “How to find the perfect dog based on your zodiac sign.” Ratings were astronomical. Of those who later visited YouTube to view the segment online, an astounding 73 percent were millennials, according to Mazuer. “These pieces,” she half-giggled when we talked, “are silly and fun.” For her audience, that’s plenty good enough.

In the last issue, Neuhaus wrote about comedy clubs, another unexpectedly growing industry.