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Sensationalism in Astrology

I’m tired. And I know if I’m tired, you’re tired. I’m tired of being told every Mercury retrograde is the time to hunker down. I’m tired of being told to prepare for eclipse season, and I’m tired of being told Saturn is going to come out of the sky and eat me.

Okay, that last part was a little bit dramatic. Sensationalist much? But I think these events are key to understanding how we talk about astrology, and in turn, how we choose to portray it to the world.

If people — either clients, the general public, or general astrology enthusiasts — see astrologers freak out, then they freak out. People who do not know what retrogrades mean, for example, are filled with fear and anticipation. “What will happen to me this time?” is a prevalent question on their minds. People are taking us seriously, especially when it comes to cycles such as retrogrades.

But it won’t be long before people tune out Mercury retrograde as another clickbait tactic and ignore astrology as a practice altogether. I want to promote a few methods to dispel sensationalism and attract people to astrology without diluting its meaning. The problem lies in two main concerns: portrayal of astrology and lack of access to credible astrology. The two go hand in hand.

Let’s take, for example, monthly predictions. One way to bring those predictions back down to earth may be simple: include a key at the bottom. Guide readers along with your interpretation, and let them create one for themself. This can help readers feel as if they are actively participating. I know this may have the ability to rub some astrologers the wrong way, especially with the thought of, “If I have a key, what is the point of interpretation?” The magic lies not in the astrology itself, but in your interpretation of it. You are the one who brings astrology to life, especially to the layman or beginning astrologer. As Stephen Arroyo states in his Chart Interpretation Handbook: “… it is then the astrologer that matters more than the astrology. The application of the science is an art and requires the subtlety of an artist. The question thus becomes: What kind of artist are you?” (1)

By implementing this method, you can recreate a sense of trust in your community, not as the almighty, all-knowing astrologer, but as a lovable friend who reads the stars. If they still have questions about how your interpretation of transits apply to their life, refer them straight to the source. You can say, “To see what this month’s transits hold in store for you personally, come talk with me! I’d love to book a reading with you.”

This does not just apply to transits. Beginners often start by looking up their personal placements online or in books. This is a perfect instance to recommend a reading. That way they are getting a personalized interpretation, and one from a source they know and trust.

But I am sure we still see a plethora of people come in, concerned about a wide variety of astrological things. That is why, when we call attention to retrograde cycles, a planet shifting signs, eclipse season, or whatever it may be, we have to keep in mind the real, living people who read our work and trust us. That does not mean to gloss over the bad, the grief, or the very real problems in our lives. But that does mean to not cause unnecessary tension and fear in our predictions, observations, and readings. So the question becomes, how do we preserve accuracy without increasing fear?

As longtime radio host Bernard Meltzer once said, “Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, and is it helpful?” (2) Even the harshest aspects can be explained in a loving way. I’m sure we’ve all seen clients who make their squares their superpower. We’ve seen clients have absolutely terrific Saturn returns. We’ve seen clients with packed eighth and twelfth houses who have lived lovely, wonderful, and successful lives. Astrology is not in the general description, but the nuance. Saying the truth, in an honest and loving way, is a skill.

Let’s say a client with a planet in detriment comes to see you because they want your interpretation on said planet. They know a little astrology, but perhaps not enough to have a balanced interpretation of their placement. They’ve learned a little online, think the stars have doomed them, and want to know that they are okay. They originally got into astrology because of how accurately it was able to describe them, but as they’ve learned more, that same source of information became a place of shame. If we promote astrology as a method of self-discovery, then we cannot allow it to be used as a weapon for self-hate.

When we discuss astrology, we must keep in mind not only how it is portrayed, but also how it can be received. We talk about astrological cycles, but each event is treated as if it is a once-in-a-lifetime, mind-altering event. We know it’s just a part of the cycle, so why is it not being received as such? Part of it has to do with what we are saying and how we are saying it. Part of it has to do with what people are actually hearing. The key to mitigating the spread of misinformation starts by listening to what people are hearing.

When Mercury goes retrograde, people hear, “You may get into a car accident on your way to work and fight with your partner.” Now, this could happen at any time! But if astrology is seen as a metaphor for life itself, and this is their life we’re talking about — of course they are going to take it seriously.

With Saturn return, they hear, “All of your wrongs are going to catch up with you.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. The thought of every single one coming back to haunt me is terrifying. But let me ask you, how is a person supposed to cope with that thought?

When we start by listening to what people are hearing, regardless of what we are actually trying to say, then we can correct our course. We can say, “No, that’s not what it means,” as much as we like, but until we start to understand where this disconnect is, and what people are actually thinking and feeling, then the problem will not be solved. The first step lies in listening, so that we may actively clarify later.

The next big issue is with astrological education. The biggest aspect of this is that people do not know what they do not know. Discernment is difficult when you are new to something and you do not know who to trust. This includes not even knowing where to start your studies. So people turn to others. They want to be educated, they want to learn. But not everyone can afford a mentor. Not everyone can afford a course on astrology. Not everyone can afford a reading. Not everyone can afford a library of astrology books. (And even if they could, where would they start? Most don’t even know where to begin.) And this leads people to seek information from the wrong sources.

So we have a small crisis on our hands. That crisis is a lack of good, digestible, accessible, information. And when people do not know who to trust or go to, they find themselves citing the wrong sources. Because right now, they are learning on social media. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with this. These places are helpful. They help beginners learn astrology. And they get people interested in astrology. The reason learning from social media is so popular is because it is accessible. It is largely free; the only cost is internet access. But when people learn online, they can potentially receive inaccurate knowledge. Sometimes it becomes a scenario of the blind leading the blind. And that can become discouraging, to the modern astrologer, astrology student, or astrology enthusiast.

In this scenario, it’s important to keep two main things in mind: accessibility and affordability. Not everyone can afford books, and not everyone learns best from books. The internet has allowed us to accommodate a wide variety of expressions of Mercury — people can easily find information in any way that they like to learn, whether that be auditorily, visually, or in another way. The problem is also the quality and depth of that information. Astrology is lacking a centralized, accessible place to actively send potential students. This part may be unrealistic, but it is our job to guide others to the proper resources so that they may continue the craft. One way to do that is by having a central, cohesive place to send people who are interested in learning more. That way, students can learn the basics, decide if they want to continue their studies further, and make an informed decision about which branch they want to go into.

This spread of misinformation can be mitigated in a few ways. One is to guide people to accessible, affordable, true information. Another is to lead people to trustworthy astrologers who communicate astrology in a digestible way. One more solution is a centralized, accessible, and affordable educational place or system — one that prepares and teaches solid astrology. These solutions are by no means an exhaustive list, but can more act as a framework. In order to teach, we must first understand — and that includes understanding our students.

Visual: Abby Craig

(1) Stephen Arroyo, Chart Interpretation Handbook; Guidelines for Understanding the Essentials of the Birth Chart, CRCS Publications, 1989, p. 26.


Abby Craig is an astrologer who is passionate about making astrology less fearful. She aims to help others with her client work, mentorships, and her blog, No Fear Astrology. You can find her website and exclusive newsletter on all things astrology here. Her astrological reports are available exclusively on AstroApp.

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