Has COVID-19 cancelled horoscopes, too?
Global lockdowns are seeing the forced return of shared experiences. For hyper-personalised astrology apps, this is causing more chaos than mercury in retrograde.
On 26th February, my daily horoscope on the popular app Astrology Zone read: “An opportunity to travel will present itself to you today.”
A couple hours later, a press invite landed in my inbox for a five day trip to The Alps for a dance festival taking place the following month. “Oh my god,” I thought, “how did they know?” I check my horoscope daily out of habit, not because I really believe in the mystic power of the stars. But credit where credit’s due: that was spooky.
Little did I – or the rest of the world for that matter – know that on 17th March France would close its borders to outside travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic. Or that on 23rd March the UK would be put into lockdown, with all non-essential businesses closed and outings limited to 30 minutes of socially distanced exercise a day.
If astrologers monitor planetary movements to predict our moods and feelings, surely, then, they saw warning signs that we’d be be intensely dissatisfied for the foreseeable future?
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t see it coming,” says the most prominent voice in the astral plane, Susan Miller, who founded her acclaimed website Astrology Zone in December 1995 after learning the ins and outs of astrology from her mother and earning an accreditation from the International Society for Astrological research. She’s been practicing ever since.
Now over two decades later, Miller’s site generates 6.5 million hits per month; she has 11 best-selling books under her belt, writes astrology columns for a number of international publications such as Elle UK, Vogue Japan and Vanity Fair US, and, in 2013 added the AstrologyZone Daily Horoscope app to her growing empire.
Through her multiple mystical outlets, Miller has singlehandedly turned the ancient pseudoscience of astrology into a global phenomenon, and has her horoscope-obsessed, mainly millennial, fanbase eating out of the palm of her hand as they search for clarity in life via their personalised astrological road map.
While most of us are familiar with the 12 zodiac signs and blame shitty incidents on Mercury being in retrograde, Miller goes deeper. She uses birth charts to track how a person’s sun (date they were born), rising (time they were born) and moon (where they were born) signs interact with the 12 planetary positions in the sky.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world beyond recognition. Social distancing measures have enforced global lockdowns that mean we are all stuck at home, feeling anxious and seeing our relationships and work tested.
In effect, it’s the return of the shared experience – people from all walks of life are going through the exact same thing all around the world. And the transition is spinning astrology into a tizz.
Is now the time to invest money in a business? Probably not – the economy is on the brink of a recession. Is long distance travel on the horizon? Definitely not – airlines worldwide have ground to a halt. On matters of health, wealth and relationships, it appears coronavirus is turning horoscopes into a one-size-fits-all policy.
“Horoscopes are inherently personal – like a fingerprint,” asserts Miller, whose detailed April forecasts suggest that the move of Saturn – the taskmaster planet – into Aquarius will lead to work stress for Virgos and that Sagittarians will have a strong desire to be with friends during the 7th April Libra full moon. Something tells me that it’s not just Virgos that will be experiencing work stress – 950,000 people have applied for universal credit in the first two weeks of lockdown in the UK alone. While most of us – Sagittarians included – probably felt that urge to see friends on the 7th, after nearly three weeks of forced distance from our loved ones.
In response to these changing circumstances, Channing Tatum-approved daily astrology app The Pattern recently implemented an “Unprecedented Times” world horoscope for each of its users. Here, instead of personalised readings anchored around an individual’s birth chart, it forecasts that “irrational or uncontrollable events may occur, and they could leave you – or the people around you – feeling powerless”. Adding that this will “create upheaval and change established norms” for all.
The app has also amended their “Perspective” box – a tailored feature which usually guides users to focus on specific areas of their lives – with a “World Update”, instead saying: “For the next month, the theme is connecting to something larger than yourself.” Replacing the focus on personal realignment to a shift in a global mindset.
Until now psychics, astrologers and palm readers have made great use of the Barnum Effect. The phenomenon – heavily referenced by sceptics when debunking astrology – occurs when individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them (more so than to other people) no matter how generic said descriptions might be. While these apps continue to give out blanket horoscopes to their millions of users – regardless of their individual sun, moon or rising sign – will astrology believers hold faith?
Miller writes her daily horoscopes three months in advance. “We’re going through all of them and we have to re-edit some of them,” she says, understandably sounding a bit miffed. “We have to change them to make them accurate.” She highlights that even though our freedom has been limited to 30-minute windows of outdoor time, traits from a person’s zodiac sign still influence how they may be handling the crisis.
“The people who will find it easiest to conform to the new world will be Gemini, Virgos, Sagittarius and Pisces because they are the four mutable signs,” Miller explains. “The ones that might have the hardest time are the fixed signs: Taurus, Aquarius, Leo and Scorpio.”
Miller also notes that there are other ways to engage with your zodiac forecast, and has specific suggestions for how some of the signs can cope in isolation. “Cancers love to take their children on vacation, but obviously won’t be able to. But they could make a scrapbook of a holiday.” For friendship craving Sagitarrians, she offers this advice: “I keep hearing about groups of friends going on Zoom and having a party once a week.”
True to form, Miller has predicted when this will all end. “Pluto rules viruses while Jupiter expands everything it touches. Right now Jupiter and Pluto are travelling shoulder to shoulder, which explains this pandemic,” Miller adds. “The next conjunction is 25th June, but at that time they’re in retrograde, [which] means they’re sleeping.”
So by June this will be over? “No. Because they’ll meet one more time on 12th November. So just when we think it’s gone, like a snake in the grass, [coronavirus] comes back to bite,” she says, echoing scientists’ predictions.
“Jupiter and Pluto stay close enough to affect each other until the 15th December and that’s when we’ll see this thing end.”