Like many people with Indian family, or white people with hippy parents, I had my Jyotish chart drawn up when I was still in nappies. I can therefore tell you that I was born into Venus, making me a lustful, infatuated child (albeit one with Meatloaf’s old hairline and a surprisingly large collection of hamsters). I can also tell you that I spent my 20s in Moon, susceptible to illusion, depression and deception (while living in a red-brick back-to-back in Leeds and listening to an unhealthy amount of Leonard Cohen).
As this newspaper has reported, astrology is having a cultural moment, with apps such as Co-Star garnering millions of downloads. It has been suggested that feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty may play a part. I have only ever taken even the slightest interest in astrology during periods of extreme heartbreak, anxiety, indecision, confusion or sadness. When things are going well, I’m as likely to look for meaning on a Kimberly-Clark toilet roll. But when I worried I might never have a baby, when I had to decide which university to go to, when I got my heart drop-kicked off the motorway flyover of first love, when I was made redundant, I took to my chart just like an ancient mariner studying their sextant.
As a good millennial, I plotted my post-adolescent sex life across Heat magazine’s scattering of Love Days. Like so many young people chewing the cud of women’s magazines, I would always manage to identify some point of affinity in the back of Glamour, Vogue or Elle, even when the copy was clearly four months out of date, lying scuffed and thumbed in a dentist’s waiting room. As a student, my housemates and I took a possibly unhealthy interest in Ruth the Truth and her snippets of astrology nestled between the 17 Things to Do With Scouring Pads That Will Change Your Life articles and the I Married a Vampire Shed Who Turned Out to Be My Brother features of the much-beloved Chat magazine. I even wrote the joke horoscope, for a little while, in my student newspaper.
For many years horoscopes and astrology, along with tarot, crystal healing and 5Rhythms dance, held a particular place in my heart that was part secrecy, part shame, part hope and part entertainment. It was fun to idly speculate about who this attractive stranger I was due to meet on Wednesday might be; it was reassuring to imagine that my latest romantic cock-up was written in the stars rather than across my poisonous mix of clinginess, flatulence and binge-drinking; it was nice to hear my mum explain how the rolling nature of the nine planetary dashas (or periods) meant things would cheer up eventually; it was funny to think of people falling for this stuff while, in the same breath, falling for it myself.
It therefore comes as no surprise to me to read that my generation – caught in the constantly swirling toilet bowl of job stagnation, terrified of the climate crisis, unable to afford their commute let alone their own home, swiping through an endless series of failed online attempts at love, staring down the barrel of their finite fertility, squeezed by austerity, watching the worst government in living history take their seats, standing by in horror as our health system, care system, transport system, housing system and political system is broken up for the short-term profit of a tiny minority of invisible oligarchs – has started to retreat into a narrative of fate, destiny, astrology and predetermination.
When you have little to no control over your own life, it is somehow reassuring to imagine that the orbital movement of the planets may be taking care of business for you. That those cold and gassy unknowable lumps in the universe may offer some clue as to why your landlord has thrown you out with four weeks’ notice; why you have miscarried twice in one year; why you cannot get a job; why your parents have lost their pension; or why you have lost touch with almost all your friends. Without an organised religion to fall back on, why not start looking elsewhere for a little celestial insight?
After all, it’s better than becoming a conspiracy theorist.
• Nell Frizzell is a columnist and writer