10) Astrological Terminology Misuse and Abuse
Terms and buzzwords/phrases that give me diabetes and other preventable ailments:
- It’s astrologer, not astrologist.
- It’s conjoining, not conjuncting.
- It’s “Mercury is retrograde”, not “Mercury is in retrograde”.
- It’s [Planet] in [Sign], not [Sign] in [Planet].
- Instead of energy, try using a thesaurus.
- Instead of consciousness, try, well, anything else.
- Instead of empowering, try the creamed spinach at Boston Market.
There are at least several more which my brain has just blocked out from overhearing. Some of these come from people first learning about astrology, but sometimes they come from people who should know a bit more about astrology considering they want to critique it. Instead, they give us…
To be clear: There are areas of astrology which could be more legitimately scrutinized. People skeptical about astrology could use better arguments if they just put more time into learning about it. Instead, we get the same old lame critiques which reveal more about their ignorance of the subject rather than a shortcoming of the practice. Here is a rundown of some sub-types of these Armchair Skeptics:
- Ophiuchus Truthers – These are people who believe there should be a 13th sign called Ophiuchus because of their conflation of the constellational zodiac with the tropical and sidereal zodiacs. The tropical signs and sidereal signs have the same names as the constellations though they are not the same things. It’s much easier to just pretend astrologers don’t know the difference. Ophiuchus can go take a seat.
- Precession Preachers – These are people who believe that astrologers are unaware of the precession of the equinoxes. Too bad they’ve been familiar with the concept 2000+ years. Like the Ophiuchus Truthers, they don’t seem to understand astrologers in the west are deliberately using the tropical zodiac which only has the same names as constellations but are not actually the same thing. Now, astrologers who practice Vedic astrology from India actually do use the sidereal zodiac. It’s a legitimate point of difference in the practice of astrology that could be worth exploring insofar as its validity, but no. Let’s pretend astrologers don’t understand precession.
- Horoscope Know-It-Alls – These are people whose only reference for astrology are sun sign horoscopes and then believe that they represent the summation of all astrological knowledge and use their mighty powers of reason to conclude that astrology sucks. Yeah, because astrologers don’t acknowledge that tiny sun sign horoscopes are generally insufficient modes for communicating to 1/12th of the population based on one very general (and possibly inaccurate) piece of information EVER. AT ALL. I wonder how a doctor would give a satisfactory assessment of a patient if they only had the patient’s name from a secondhand source to go off of.
- Heliocentric Town Criers – These are people who claim that astrologers don’t understand the solar system is heliocentric because charts are cast from the geocentric perspective. Astrologers have been familiar with heliocentricity since antiquity. We use geocentric charts by choice because it’s the appearance of planets from where we are on Earth that is considered to be significant. Never mind asking what would become of astrology if someone were not born on Earth, let’s just imagine astrologers don’t know the solar system is heliocentric. Yawn.
It’s not just skeptics who could stand to learn a little more about astrology, it also includes people not hostile to astrology, because…
8) Potential Clients Don’t Google For Astrologers
One reason I think astrologers don’t get more business from clients is because the portion of the general public that is not hostile toward astrology does not seem to know about the added value from having a real astrologer read their chart. Of course, there is the aversion to paying for something if you can get it for free, and some people might feel that a sun-sign horoscope is sufficient. This is reflected in search trends on Google. Potential clients are using specific terms which astrologers may not be using to advertise themselves or their services. People are not searching for “astrologer” on Google. They’re not searching for “astrology“, nor “natal chart” or “readings“. However, there is one astrology-related search term which dominates all the others: “horoscope“. Of course, free horoscopes for a magazine or website can pay astrologers from ad revenue. If an astrologer offers horoscopes for free, it could potentially lead to paid consultations from interested readers. It just sucks that fundamentally, potential clients generally aren’t using the same language that astrologers use to advertise their services. Astrology is just generally misunderstood by the general public. Skeptics may hate you because they think you’re a delusional anti-science fraud-peddling nitwit, but there are others who hate you for the exact opposite reason…
7) Highly Religious People Think You’re the Devil
While to a large extent I understand sincere scientific or philosophical skepticism of astrology, I don’t understand the objections from religious people. My main frame of reference for religious opponents of astrology has been American conservative Christians, so I will address that perspective. Many of them reference Deuteronomy 18:10-14 to argue that astrologers are “an abomination to the Lord”. Isaiah 47:13-14 says that astrologers will be burnt like “stubble”. Okay. So here are some questions…
How do you think the “wise men” found the baby Jesus? They followed a star rising in the east? The term “Magi” relates back to Zoroastrianism who had a reputation for doing…astrology. They were astrologers, guys. C’mon. But maybe that’s not convincing enough. Surely, there wouldn’t be a direct quote from Jesus saying there are signs in the sun and the moon and the stars.
“…and there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars…” – Jesus, Luke 21:25.
If Jesus meant astrology doesn’t work he probably should have included the word “not”. Just sayin’. My experience has been that highly religious opponents of astrology aren’t against it because they think it doesn’t work, but because it does and therefore it must be occult or Satanist. Speaking of which…
6) You Get Lumped In With Anything Remotely Occult or New Age
It’s not just the ultra religious people. There is a tendency especially among people uneducated about astrology to lump it in with every other paranormal, supernatural, New Age, esoteric, occult or magical practice out there. Although to be fair, even people interested in astrology sometimes dabble in these “related” areas. Without saying anything about astrology’s value relative to these other fields, it can be agreed that they are distinct, and it’s annoying when these distinctions are not acknowledged.
The other issue with lumping these practices together is the contradictions they can pose. For example, the implicit premise of astrology is that lives are fated to some degree because planetary transits are fixed and predictable. In contrast, implicit in the practice of magick or other magical thinking such as the Law of Attraction is the premise that your life is affected by your free will to some degree. Astrology and magick then only appear to have contradictory premises…
But it’s probably because astrology gets lumped in with all of these other fringe disciplines that…
5) Astrological Predictions Are Held to Higher Scrutiny than Other Predictions
When the weather man makes a bad call on rain, it doesn’t discredit the field of meteorology. When a political scientist makes a bad call on an election outcome, it doesn’t discredit the field of political science. When an economist makes a bad call on the direction of a stock’s value, it doesn’t discredit the the field of economics. When an astrologer makes a bad call on a prediction, for some reason, it discredits the entire field of astrology. But maybe this happens because…
4) Everyone Thinks You Have Superpowers
“Oh you’re an astrologer? Tell me MY future”. I imagine this is like a comedian who is asked to make someone laugh right on the spot. It doesn’t work like that. Astrologers aren’t psychics and can’t just tell someone something with tons of specificity right on the spot without any further information. Astrology can be used to make predictions, but the difference between, say, a psychic and an astrologer is that the psychic presumably has some special intuitive sense, the astrologer doesn’t have superpowers. An astrologer is just someone who has learned a language and tries to translate it into their spoken language. Even a hardcore skeptic of astrology could learn the basic fundamentals of astrology and be reading charts after a while. I might be able to tell if your transits seem to indicate good luck with money but I can’t tell you the winning lottery numbers. If you have winning lottery numbers though I’d be happy to take them off your hands. Please give me money.
The one totally not depressing and totally useful superpower you might get from learning astrology is…
3) The Crushing Burden of Knowledge
No one likes bad news. Say the client asks you if they’ll ever get into a relationship again, and you don’t see it happening for a long time, or possibly ever. While it can be a relief to have bad news in your life validated by astrology, it’s different if the news comes directly from an astrologer. While it’s not entirely truthful or helpful, the best you can do is to acknowledge “challenges” in a given area and focus on the good things they have coming on the horizon. It just sucks.
The other situation in which it’s difficult to be truthful is when you see something you’re not supposed to know about. I read the chart of a woman who was with her husband. She was in the middle of a long term Venus-Neptune transit, which didn’t make sense to me because she got married long before that transit began. Coupled with a few other factors, I realized the Venus-Neptune transit was not about her husband. She kept wanting to know more about her transits and Venus, and I had to skirt around the topic in her husband’s presence. Sure enough, a few years later they divorced because she had been in love with a married man. True to the character of Neptune, despite having divorced her husband, the other man would not leave his wife to be with her.
But having the burden of knowledge isn’t enough. On top of that is the…
2) Feeling Like You Have Free Will Even If You’re Not Sure You Have It
How much free will do you really have? It certainly feels like we have a good amount. I can’t tell from someone’s chart what color shirt they’re going to wear that day. And it feels like a very free decision. But as you begin to learn more about astrology, especially from some of its more advanced timelord techniques, you begin to question how much of your life actually is planned. Say the shirt you put on was a dark color, and you went out at night which caused you to get hit by a driver who didn’t see you and couldn’t stop in time. Most astrologers would say that a life-threatening incident like this should be signaled clearly by any number of astrological techniques. However, this uncomfortably suggests that the decision to wear a dark colored shirt was not a free decision, but a fated one. Maybe the road less traveled is the one you always would have picked. Or the two paths diverging in the woods just led to the same place? Living life in this way, seeing potential meaning in every minutia of life is a quick way to go insane. The only way I’ve been able to deal with this is by being thankful that we experience time linearly. I at least get the extremely convincing real-time illusion of free will moment to moment, even though in the back of my mind I know that planetary transits are fixed. Live like you have free will, even if you have none. ‘
We’re just at number 2. Even an existential crisis that brings you to the point of insanity isn’t the worst thing about being an astrologer. What could possibly be worse than that?
1) Procuring Birth Times
Birth times allow you to get the most precise picture of the sky at the time someone was born. Countless astrological techniques hinge on an accurate birth time. In some cases, even 1 minute could make a big difference. It’s the one thing we would really need in order to statistically validate (or invalidate) many of astrology’s claims. And it’s the one thing in the world that can be absolutely impossible to get ahold of.
Pesky vital records laws are the bête noire of every astrologer who works with birth times (i.e. pretty much everyone). From expensive arbitrary fees to varying national and state laws and varying standards for recording the birth time at all, the obstacles in the way of acquiring this seemingly innocuous piece of information are so unpredictable and comically difficult you’d think everyone was trying to keep it a secret or something.
In the United States for example, there is the off chance you might be looking for the birth time of someone who was born in one of the 17 open records states.((CA, ID, KY, MA, MN, MT, NB, NC, ND, NJ, NM, OH, SD, UT, VT, WA, WI, http://www.astro.com/astro-databank/Astro-Databank:Handbook_chapter_07.1)). But if they weren’t, you pretty much just have to find a way to ask them. As long as you don’t mind being the strangest person they’ve ever met asking the strangest question they’ve ever fielded, it can be a great way to find out they have no clue what their time is and their parents burned in a fire. And their baby books burned in a fire, and their newspaper birth notices burned in a fire, and the hospital and all the medical records burned in a fire, and anything or anyone else that might have given a clue all burned in a fire. Which brings us back to the government’s records as one somewhat reliable source for this information, and the vital records laws which can make them the least accessible source. Pff. Privacy. Why does it matter WE JUST NEED THE BIRTH TIMES PLZ KTHX. Amirite, amirite? Yes. Yesimrite.