New age spiritualism has been on the climb, we know this – but a specific sector of that has blown up in popularity. According to a recent study by Refinery29, millennials have shown significantly more interest in astrology than generations before them. Between 2011 and 2016, the field of psychological services – which encompasses everything from astrology to tarot readings to palmistry – increased by two percentage points. That’s a significant climb, and it seems mostly spurred on by young adults in their 20s and 30s. But understanding why astrology has become so popular means recognizing the significant and sometimes radical shifts in attitudes and circumstances among the millennial generation.
Non-Religious Doesn’t Mean Non-Spiritual
Millennials seem to represent a shift away from orthodox religious practice in the general population. A seven-year period saw a decline of an astonishing 11% in a seven-year period, while those who didn’t affiliate with a religion saw a drop of 11% in a belief in God. While this could signify a move towards atheist or at least agnostic sentiments, the big picture tells a deeper story. One out of four Americans identifies as “spiritual but not religious.” But even as millennials decouple their ethical thinking from religious dogma, they’re still hopeful for a quasi-supernatural explanation for the sometimes chaotic world around them.
That distinction between ethics and impartial meaning is critical. Practically all the religions of the world are defined by the moral precepts at the heart of their philosophy. Whether it’s the karmic circle of life or seven testaments etched into stone tablets, these are philosophies that presume a moral framework that underpins our reality and is most often created by some form of higher power. While forms of spirituality like star charts and tarot readings implicitly suggest a higher power, they remain primarily distinct from one’s moral and ethical standards. This allows a generation disillusioned with organized religions, which often adopt ethical stances that run contrary to progressive-leaning millennials, to disregard the messy complications of religious law while still holding on hope for some variety of higher power. This is reflected clearly in the practices themselves. While astrology suggests that our personalities and characteristics are tied to the alignment of the stars, these characteristics are mainly neutral of hard ethical context. Palmistry and tarot reading, meanwhile, presume to predict future events without placing these tides of change at the whims of a discreet and known deity and without tying the consequences to negative or affirmative action on behalf of the parties involved. As the millennial population grows more spiritual and less religious, these practices offer the best of both worlds.
Instability Spurs a Desire For Universal Truth
The world that millennials exist in is quite different from that of the generation before. Between increasing political polarization, the looming threat of climate change, and dramatic technological revolutions, it can be hard to understand the shape of the world. When things are always changing, it’s that much more difficult to believe in a religion rooted in fundamental and unchanging principles. This uncertainty is equally reflected in the personal lives of millennials. A belief in stagnant wages and increasing reliance on the gig economy to survive an make members of this generation feel as if they’re always at the mercy of forces other than themselves.
In a climate like that, it makes sense that they seek out some form of soothsaying that helps them read the currents of those larger forces. Astrology provides a sense of meaning in a disordered world. The detailed parameters of natal charts offer millennials with prisms through which they can see themselves, and the changing signs of the planets and stars on a daily basis allow them to attribute some sense of cosmic pattern to both luck and misfortune. This is reflected in other forms of spirituality too. Aside from just horoscopes and natal charts, people are also turning to look at tarot cards as well. While astrology is primarily rooted in the present and the internalized self, the latter seeks to provide answers regarding one’s future. To a generation with a potentially lost understanding of where they’re going and what they can expect when they get there, tarot readings and palmistry can provide a distinct path to follow.
Prejudices Against Astrology Are Fading
This isn’t the first time that astrology has become a significant part of the popular consciousness. The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of the New Age movement, and with it came a turn towards an alternate route to traditional religions. This too was a time of significant political, social, and economic change, and the shifting values of the younger generation made them more amenable to notions of unorthodox spirituality. In the time between, astrology never went away, even though it partially faded into the background. It became something advertised on late night infomercials and a diversionary section in the back of the local newspaper, a novelty mostly disregarded.
But as sensibilities have started to change, so have attitudes towards the art of astrology. Part of this is due to the rise of the internet. Aggressive branding and outreach by online apps like Co-Star Astrology have re-centered astrology in the public sphere, and online personality quizzes, a sort of modern equivalent to star signs in the first place, have increased the popularity of natal charts and other astrological content immensely. Where astrological predictions were once pushed to the back of popular girls magazines, they now sit as some of the most prominent articles between the covers.
It’s a Universal Language
As the relationships of millennials change, so do the ways in which they communicate. Social media has expanded friendships out to vast networks of casual connections and acquaintances, and the online dating grind lends a new level of anonymity to the act of finding romance. Regardless of culture, political, or geographic differences, the fundamentals between astrology are the same. It can serve as both an icebreaker and a way to organize friends and acquaintances. And while astrology may be a truly miraculous science to some, part of the appeal of getting your tarot cards to read and evaluating your natal chart has to do with the pure, self-oriented fun of it.
References & Resources:
- U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious | Pew Research Center
- 5 Reasons Why Millennials Love Astrology | Study Breaks
- In Turbulent Times, We Look To The Sky: How Astrology Is Soothing Millennial Women’s Souls | Refinery29
- Tarot Explained | Psychic 2 Tarot