An Indian Girl’s Guide to Western Astrology as a Bitter Scorpio

Illustration by Ananya Kumar

Astrology has become a truly polarising subject within pop-culture; people either find themselves thoroughly convinced that the “stars don’t lie”, or they merely dismiss the entire movement as the fabricated and less-successful cousin of astronomy. Quite often, these debates are filled with the sanctimony and academic elitism that is regularly found alongside the rejection of a ‘pseudo-science’.

Those who unashamedly blame their burnt coffee, missed bus, or recent breakup on Mercury’s rude transition into retrograde, are often perceived as absurdly irrational individuals who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. As such an individual, I feel the need to address this condemnation. And so, to all those people who read their weekly horoscopes, check their astrological compatibility with their significant other, and look forward to their sun sign season, this article is the unashamed embrace of astrology that you deserve.

I feel that it is very important to first acknowledge the modern Western derivation of astrology as being a product of its origins: based on historical Indo-Greek concepts. Throughout the Indo-Greek period of 200 BC to AD 10, the Hellenistic influence of the Babylonians spread the study of the stars and movement of the sky to the East. Current Western astrology is based off a tropical definition of the universe; that is, the orientation of the Earth relative to the Sun and planets, which is drawn directly from the original Babylonian concept. Meanwhile, Vedic or Indian, astrology is considered to be sidereal; it examines the Earth in relation to not only the sun and stars, but to the entire celestial sphere. Within Vedic astrology lies Jyotish, which is the traditional spiritual practice of the Vedic religion. Jyotish is not simply a tokenistic study of the stars. It prescribes cosmic significance and worship of the stars, sun and moon. The modern form of horoscopic astrology that dominates our social media is a combination of both tropical Hellenistic astrology and sidereal Jyotish astrological practice.

As a Hindu woman, astrology is much more than reading a Cosmopolitan Snapchat story every Tuesday. Astrology underpins core beliefs of my spirituality. The ridicule of the astrological belief system as being merely a pop-culture trend is steeped in condescension and academic sanctimony. For those who follow astrology as a religious ritual, the modern-day mockery and Western commercialisation of a deeply traditional practice can be incredibly frustrating. However, it should also be noted that, while the origins of astrology are linked to historic Indo-Greek concepts, and that my own personal practice of astrology is nuanced with religion, a following of Western horoscopes devoid of spirituality shouldn’t be condemned either. While it can be frustrating to see a spiritual belief system commercialised into a slogan tee, I’m not going to deny the fact that I have a t-shirt with the word “Scorpio” scrawled across it. For many, astrology can become a practice of identity, and it is not necessary to engage with the Eastern religious aspect of it to be taken seriously, particularly if it’s not part of your personal culture.

As long as the beliefs people hold do not actively oppress, harm or endanger others, there is no need to make value statements on those beliefs. It is an unintentional, albeit still hurtful, act of arrogance to measure the validity of something against one’s own opinion of what ‘valid’ is.

Whether you follow the stars because you find it comforting to think that everything happens for a reason, or because it is part of your culture, or because it’s just a bit of fun reading what Cosmo has to say about your love life this week, doing so is your choice to make. The world we live in right now is incredibly chaotic, absurdist and frightening. There are far bigger issues and concerns at play, so nobody should be wasting time attacking and ridiculing people who strongly believe in their horoscopes, for whatever reasons they do so. It is also incredibly rude to dismiss someone’s harmless personal beliefs for the sole reason that they are unsubstantiated or ‘silly’. At what point do we just leave people alone with their hobbies and past-times and simply let them be; who are we to tell each other what to believe?

If you don’t follow the stars yourself, that is your own prerogative, and there is nothing to gain from attempting to discredit or convince an avid astrologist that their beliefs are hogwash. All that will eventuate is tension and, perhaps, a response consisting of the hiss of “such an Aries!”