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Look to the stars

The move from organized religion to astrology

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Not too long ago, astrology seemed as if it was only a practice used to appease middle school-aged girls who read horoscopes in magazines. Now the study, which uses celestial bodies to interpret human activities, has gained prominence as a useful practice, especially among young people in urban centers.

According to a study from the Pew Research Center, young people have been distancing themselves more and more from organized religions in the past few decades. They are, on the converse, also taking more interest in astrology. This may be evident to anyone following millennials on social media or regularly attending social gatherings with them. Young people are creating an influx of astrology-themed social media pages, using the study as a basis to understand themselves and their relationships, and wearing their sign’s pride as some would honor a hometown sports team.

Kate Harrington, 22, a DePaul University student who lives in Lincoln Park, believes astrology is a beneficial way to understand the world around her. She hosts a radio show at DePaul titled “Astro Power Hour” and runs a Twitter account called “Yr Local Virgo.” “I really like using it as a tool for self-reflection, as well as self-improvement,” she said.

Harrington became interested in astrology when she read a friend’s book on the subject. After reading the book’s Virgo chapter, she thought the information it provided resonated with her and wanted to learn more.

Like most people, she thought she belonged to a single zodiac sign, based on the 30-day window when she was born. However, most people who use astrology in their everyday lives do so based on their natal charts. These charts use a person’s birthday, birth location, and time of birth to determine their various astrological placements.

Each placement rules a different aspect of your life, and many astrology fans argue that the natal chart needs to be looked at as a whole in order to understand the practice. A person’s placements can give them insight into the way they act and feel.

More and more young people are using online generators to discover their natal charts. It is also commonplace for some young people to analyze natal charts with their friends and loved ones. “I use it as a tool to help put words to how I’m feeling and the ways my friends act. It helps me better my relationships with people,” said Harrington.

Beth Coyle, 19, a DePaul University student who lives in Buena Park, follows “Yr Local Virgo,” Harrington’s astrology Twitter page. After seeing an increase in astrology social media pages and discovering her birth chart, she has subscribed to astrology as something to keep in mind when going about her daily tasks. “Whenever I watch a show, even a scripted show, I try to guess all the character’s signs,” said Coyle.

Astrology is categorized mostly as a spiritual practice, but usually not a religious one. Each generation becomes more religiously unaffiliated, and this current group of young people might be the most secular yet, according to Pew research. Astrology, to many, may seem like a favorable substitute for institutionalized religion.

Lisa Poirier, who holds a Ph.D. in religious studies and works as a professor at DePaul University, says she has noticed a trend of young people being denied lessons involving basic religious literacy in their schooling. “Religion is associated with problematic politics and hot button issues,” she said.

Poirier also noted that religious traditions are typically tied to cultural backgrounds. As more people in the United States become unable to trace their specific ancestral origins, they become more alienated from religious tradition. If a religious tradition cannot be found in a young person’s family, it is up to them to find their own religion or spiritual practice, she said.

“Religion is all about constructing a cosmos. It’s about making sense of the universe,” said Poirier. Young people want to understand the world around them, but they do not necessarily want to adhere to an institutionalized practice in order to do so.

Astrology also contains an element of esotericism that is appealing to young people. Since people have to do a bit of research in order to understand astrology, they uncover new knowledge that others might not have. “Everybody loves a secret,” said Poirier.

The research needed in order to understand astrology is also attractive to young people because it can transform into somewhat of a hobby. “It’s just fun,” said Coyle.

Young people are also in the stage of their lives that is arguably the most self-centered. This makes them apt to pursue research in the astrological field because it is a practice that is highly individualistic. A natal chart is determined based off of a person’s unique birth, and the report they receive will be specific to them as an individual. “People want to understand the cosmos with themselves at the center,” said Poirier.

Astrology, even though it is an ancient practice, appeals to young people in a way that is new and exciting. “You can use it for whatever you want, and we use it for good,” said Harrington.

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