I’m a Taurus, and Tauruses don’t believe in astrology

May 8, 2017 — by Oksana Trifonova

During the Dark Ages of middle school, I used to be obsessed with astrology. I would read my horoscope as soon as I woke up,  trying to divine the true meaning of its verbose and ambiguous predictions.

I visited “horoscope compatibility” websites, read about the “science” behind numerology, tried to predict my future with Tarot cards and even checked out a book on palm reading at the library. Astrology seemed mysterious and secret to me; it was like going back to childhood fairytale books, except these seemed more real and exciting.
I remember talking about my hobby with my grandmother, who disapproved of my “dangerous” obsession. She used to live in a small Ukrainian village where belief in folk tales and witchcraft was deeply held by many and dabbling in something like astrology was taboo.

In fact, while it might seem like something out of “The Crucible,” I do recall hearing rumors as a first grader about one neighbor boiling a large kettle of some concoction and reciting incantations to curse an enemy of hers. I do not know how much of that was made up, but in villages like my grandmother’s, gossip and superstitions spread like wildfire — partly because of the community is so small, and partly because there isn't anything better to do in the midst of trees, pastures and cows. The story was probably heavily exaggerated by those who passed it on, sort of like the game of Telephone.
In any case, my grandmother grew up hearing such tales. She said she didn’t believe in them, but warned me to stay away from mysticism “just in case.”
It was then that I began wondering: Could astrology be true?  But whenever I asked adults about it, they all answered with a resounding “no.” But then, I would pick up a newspaper and see advertisements for psychics, horoscopes and palm readings plastered all over the pages. Such a discrepancy left me confused.
It wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school that I got my explanation. I was sitting with my friend at a cafe, when he read a short description that he said was tailored to my personality. He then asked me if it was accurate. I was amazed. I did have a tendency to be critical of myself, was an independent thinker and could be both introverted or extraverted, depending on the situation. “It’s spot on!” I said. “But how did you know?”
In response, he showed me the phone. Turns out, the Barnum effect is the the observation that people tend to relate to generalized  descriptions that could be applicable to almost anyone in the population. Horoscopes use this tactic so that readers report high levels of accuracy.

Suddenly, all the broad language and confusing advice made sense: The horoscope wasn’t striving for clarity. It was striving for vagueness. The information it gave was in no way magically foreseeing and had no truth to it. Astrology had no purpose other than to entertain; there was no need to take its predictions seriously.
Afterwards, I became more interested in psychology than astrology. While the mystery of astrology was fun as I explored it, I'm finding that it’s much more interesting having fascinations rooted in the real world.

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