Quite like the urban legend of Bloody Mary which states that she will appear if her name is chanted in front of a mirror repeatedly, it is also commonly believed that former lovers tend to crawl out of the woodwork exactly when you’re ready to move on. There is, of course, no scientific reason for this and neither is there sufficient empirical evidence to corroborate this belief. Hence, it falls in the no-man’s land between fact and faith.
As does astrology and the idea of retrogrades.
Every once in a while, a planet will overtake Earth and hence, it will appear to be spinning backwards. Think back to that time when you were on a train and another train overtook yours, making you believe for a split second that your bogey was going in reverse. That’s exactly what happens with retrogrades. This astrological phenomenon varies from planet to planet with every planetary retrograde having a different consequence, it is believed among those who believe in this sort of thing.
The most common retrograde is Mercury retrograde, simply because it is said to affect us so directly that the results are extremely in-your-face. In astrology, Mercury is the planet which controls communication, technology and travel and hence, a mercury retrograde ends up causing miscommunication, a backfiring related to travel plans and stuff like your car breaking down. It is imperative to not approach these topics with a scientific bent of mind – people have tried and failed to make sense of it. In his final work, Stephen Hawking believed that time travel was more viable than the existence of God. And yet, religion is by far one of the most discussed topics in the world – wars have been fought over it and elections have been won on the basis of who is more devoted to the divine.
While astrology was always treated with a certain amount of derision (or as a guilty pleasure) among the educated elite, it has certainly found fame in online culture and has been appropriated into a meme. A page called Astrology Signs (@astrology on Twitter) has over 3,12,000 followers. It regularly posts content titled “things I’ve noticed about girls and their signs” and “the signs and flirting”. It is unclear whether a ‘qualified’ astrologer is behind the page (like with @astrologyzone and @GaneshaSpeaks) but it is no secret that astrology is going through another moment of relevance as it did during the New Age movement in the 60s.
And one of the reasons behind this shift is the idea of retrogrades affecting our lives. During a session with my therapist, I remember telling her about how I may have ruined a relationship because I was going through a “zodiac phase” and had failed to see the red flags as they didn’t go with my “astrology of the day”. I recall her telling me that keeping five points of the human psyche in mind, she could write down a “prediction” for literally anybody. It is common knowledge that most people would love to have something/someone other than themselves to blame for the mishaps in their lives – a retrograde provides just that.
While astrology has always found a place in our media, a Los Angeles based astrologer, Chani Nicholas told The Atlantic that “there’s something that’s happened in the last five years that’s given it an edginess, a relevance for this time and place, that it hasn’t had for a good 35 years. Millennials have taken it and run with it.”
In the same report, a senior editor at Broadly stated that the online traffic for the site’s astrology page “has grown really exponentially.” One of the top news websites in our country features a daily astrology section which has done wonders for their web traffic, giving them numbers that they couldn’t have imagined. A close friend admits to looking at a potential partner’s zodiac to check for “compatibility”.
“It’s stupid,” she says. “However, sometimes it really works wonders. Most things come true.” Another friend who happens to be head over heels in love with her boyfriend was recently questioning her relationship after her parents got their ‘kundlis’ checked.
“I am educated and I know it’s silly but the astrologer just read my name from a piece of paper and said things about me that I haven’t revealed to anyone else,” she said.
These are, however, isolated incidents but a 1982 study by psychologist Graham Tyson revealed that people typically tend to turn to the stars when they are undergoing stress. With stress levels at an all-time high, is it a surprise then that millennials are increasingly trying to make sense of the goings-on in their lives? There was a time when you wouldn’t probably ever meet your ex again but the world’s a smaller place now. It’s difficult to cut all contact when you could creep on them on Instagram and such, but everybody would like to believe they have moved on, right? So what justifies such social media stalking? Well, Venus retrograde, of course.
After all, it’s written in the stars.