Missed your flight? Mixed messages with your boss? Just having one those weeks? It used to be called “bad luck,” but today you’re more likely to hear someone blame it on “Mercury retrograde.”
Mercury retrograde, which scientifically refers to the three-week period when Mercury appears to go in reverse as it surpasses Earth’s orbit around the sun, has become imbued with this cultural meaning because of the rising popularity of astrology.
Long relegated to the annals of the “Age of Aquarius” generation, astrology is back in vogue and in particular among millennials. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 37 percent of women and 20 percent of men believe in astrology, with the highest numbers among people between the ages of 18 and 49.
And it’s becoming a lucrative business with Americans spending an estimated $2.1 billion on the “mystical services market” in 2018.
So what’s driving this renewed interest in the zodiac?
Chani Nicolas, Oprah Magazine’s resident astrologer and the author of the new book, “You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance,” believes astrology’s resurgence is because “astrology is perfect content for memes.”
But on a deeper level, she says the renewed interest in astrology might be because people are looking to it “to quell our panic” about the news cycle and current era.
On the role of social media in making astrology popular among millennials and Generation Z
“I think that astrology is the perfect content for memes. It's very sharable. And human beings really want to know about ourselves. I want you to tell me something where I'm like, ‘Oh my God, that's so me. I relate to that.’ And so when you have a meme with like all of the signs on it, let's say, then you can like tag all your friends and everyone can kind of be dragged and loved up a little bit the same tire. And because we're living in such a social media-saturated moment, I feel that astrology is like this perfect fit of self-reflection, humor and identification.”
On the similarities between baby boomers and millennials
“I think the baby boomers came out of a time when they were part of a culture change that was really breaking away from this fake nuclear family facade that was very like white supremacist and very classist and very 'you fit into the mold.' And the baby boomers came along and they were like, 'No, we need to break this whole thing open.'
"... It was a huge kind of crack in the psyche, like, 'Oh, we can't trust all the things that they've been telling us to trust. And maybe we knew that all along.' But it's really a departure. And so astrology was huge back then. If we would've had the internet then, we would have been seeing, I think, the exact same thing [as today].
“It's like now that millennials are now like tearing away from the boomer generation, and so it's the next iteration of that. We're trying to evolve ourselves. We're trying to clarify our purpose and understand what are the biggest emergencies to tend to. And people really need to know, is there some reason for this? And astrology is one lens that can be like, ‘Well, this is the time frame and this is what's happening in this time frame.’ … And so if we can look back and see that time frame versus this time frame, we can kind of get a context for what's happening and that can help to quell our panic and maybe move toward solution in the moment. That's my hope for it.”
On people calling astrology a pseudoscience
“Astrology comes out of scientific roots and because we are studying the movements of planetary bodies over time and coming up with facts about them, it's not to say that there is nothing scientific about astrology, but, and also, obviously it's speaking a symbolic language. And so it's not necessarily quantifiable in the same way as we would study other things. And then we have to get into the conversation about what is science and empirical knowledge? What are we looking at and what are our biases? So, people can call it whatever they want."
On the potential for astrology to foster radical self-acceptance
“I think radical self-acceptance is the ability to accept our hopes and dreams and desires and talents as they are so that we can work on perfecting them, making them better, and getting more integrated with our skills so that we can apply them to the world and be of use in the best way possible.
"I've sat in front of so many people and read their chart and said, ‘Oh wow, you really should do A, B and C. Doing A, B and C, does that interest you?’ And they'll be like, ‘Yeah, how do you know? And I never thought I could do that.’ Like most people seem to have this buried desire that they feel they need permission to accept [to be themselves].”
On how interested people should use astrology in 2020
“I hope that people find themselves in it and in the finding of themselves, feel a little healed and motivated to just get on with life, to use those skills and those talents and those definitive marks that have been placed upon them and just go forth with some confidence.”
This segment aired on December 31, 2019.