Horoscopes’ history in pop culture
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
I was recently scrolling through Facebook, seeing my feed filled with—as it often is—clickbait compatibility quizzes. I was doing a good job of keeping myself away from headlines like “Find Your Career Path Based Only on Colour Preference” and “Which Friend’s Friend Would You Be Friends With,” until I scrolled past one from the ever-trustworthy Buzzfeed: “Which Zodiac Sign are You Most Compatible With.” As surprising as it may sound, the quiz did not accurately guess the most recurring sign on the list of my ex-partners.
I had to wonder, however, why it was that I knew what my exes signs were, especially considering my markedly low interest in astrology on the whole. Why is it that many of us would know that, despite similarly small investments in this pseudoscience?
The journalism industry played a huge role in cementing astrology as part of our day-to-day life. According to an article posted by the Smithsonian entitled “How are Horoscopes still a Thing?” the first newspaper horoscope column is generally attributed to R.H. Naylor. Naylor was the assistant to a popular astrologer among the British elite, Cheiro, and when bossman was too busy to consult the stars at the time of Princess Margaret’s birth, Naylor was tasked with determining the infant Royal’s horoscope for the newspaper the Sunday Express. According to the Smithsonian, on August 30, 1930, the Express published his report which claimed that, “events of tremendous importance to the Royal Family and the nation will come about near her seventh year,” a prediction which foresaw the timing of King Edward III’s abdication from the throne.
After another few shockingly correct predictions, Naylor was given a weekly column in the paper. The author of the Smithsonian article, Linda Rodriguez Robbie, claims that it was in this advice-driven column that Naylor developed the use of “sun signs,” or what we now recognize as zodiac signs. They are determined by figuring out in which of 12 30-degree celestial zones the sun was positioned during your birth, with each zone named after an adjacent star constellation. For example, the sun spends June 21 to July 27 in approximately the same zone, which is named after the Cancer constellation.
Just think of all those times you’ve been handed one of those daily small-form newspapers at a SkyTrain station; did you really read the headlines, or did you flip to the last page to find out what your day had in store for you? The funny thing is, even highly-respected publications like the Globe and Mail and even the New Yorker have sections dedicated to providing daily horoscopes for their readership. Even this publication has dabbled in astrological divinations—though, admittedly, the majority of our dabbling never gave the pretense of being in any way serious.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find value in astrology—to each their own.