The recent stir over the “new” zodiac signs has got me thinking about why people believe in things such as zodiacs, fortune-telling and more. According to the zodiac changes, I am no longer a Libra but a Virgo. But according to the zodiac descriptions, I actually can be characterized by both zodiac signs, though a bit more by Libra.
I hadn’t really followed astrology, but as I was reading descriptions of the zodiac signs in preparation for this blog, I was fascinated by how accurately Libra described my personality. I became interested in checking out the zodiacs of my friends and was again surprised at how well the descriptions captured aspects of their personalities. But as I got more absorbed into the astrology, I began asking myself what makes zodiacs, fortune-telling, etc. so compelling? Then I thought about my mother’s case:
Once, when my family was still in Korea, my mother went to see a fortune-teller. She asked about my family’s future and the fortune-teller told her that he can see that my family is going through a tough time, with a lot of hard choices to make. He asked my mother for the birthdates of my family members. Maybe he was following the zodiac signs, but in any case, he described our personality traits and surprised my mother with his accuracy. He told her that although the times were rough, my family would come through well and that both my brother and I would become successful.
My mother left that fortune-telling session with relief and reassurance. But to me, that did not necessarily sound like fortune-telling. Anyone can tell you that you are having a hard time and that all will be better in the end.
So if the scientific rigor is lacking, what is still so compelling about zodiacs and fortune-telling? What is the psychology behind these beliefs? I think one reason is that people intuitively tend to give meanings to the unknown. People seek explanations for why they are how they are and the zodiac signs are one way to explore this. Moreover, our insecurities can easily lead to our seeking out of fortune-tellers or zodiacs so that we can generate meaning and some sense of order within our sometimes chaotic and uncertain lives.
Related to this and/or for other reasons, there is much anxiety around the “new” zodiac. What is this about? Many people may tell you that they don’t take the zodiac very seriously, but the public outcry at this proposed change is loud! This might just be an unofficial psychological study for next time.
Image Credits: The Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress