Can Astrology Be A Tool For Liberation?
Have you noticed more people talk about their Sun, Moon, and rising signs lately? Have your friends asked you what time you were born? Whenever there is an overwhelming amount of change going on in the world, have you heard more people wonder, “What’s happening with the stars and planets these days?” or “Is Mercury retrograde?” If so, then you’re not alone.
Though many still aren’t sold on it, astrology has significantly grown in popularity since tumultuous 2020. Maybe people need something to make sense out of the chaos, or maybe they just need a new hobby. Either way, people are turning to the heavens in search of clarity and solace.
Hummingbird, the creator of Astrology for the Revolution, says that “astrology provides a unique angle for viewing our moment in history, a framework we can lean into in times when so much else is uncertain”—this unique angle being the observation of the movements and positions of the planets. According to astrology, the planets’ activity and their relationship to the sun and moon influence the personalities and moods of people, as well as the events occurring at both an individual and global level.
Research shows that the earliest evidence of the use of astrology was in the third millennium BCE. Others argue that this tool originated during the Mesopotamian era and was utilized by Babylonian priests, during a time when the boundary between astrology and astronomy didn’t exist. In her research of Astrodrama—the integration of astrology and drama therapy—astrologer and embodiment teacher Monica Gamboa says that historically, astrology has been used in the fields of meteorology, alchemy, psychoanalysis, and medicine. She refers to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, where “astrological associations in anatomy … eventually became a prerequisite for medical treatments at medieval universities.”
In everyday life, people have long referred to the moon’s waxing and waning to observe fertile and appropriate times to plant and harvest and to explore how these phases affect human moods and behaviors, which is why the term “lunacy” is derived from “lunar cycles.” And if you’ve ever wondered why the abbreviation for “pound,” the unit of measurement, is “lb.,” it’s because it originates from the constellation Libra, an astrological sign symbolized by scales.
The planetary movements and lunar cycles may affect us, but they do not dictate our choices. There are astrologers who highlight people’s power and personal agency during astrological events, including Chani Nicholas, author and founder of the CHANI app. In an interview, Chani explains that “it’s not that the planets make us do something or the planets do something for us. … I think of it as the sky is a mirror, and it’s kind of giving us a weather report.” And whenever there are weather conditions we need to prepare for, we access the tools, clothing, and even the mental awareness to get us through the particularly severe ones.
Astrology can help us understand ourselves and the times we’re living in. Because of this, it is a powerful tool, which has been used for the common good and also by oppressive forces. Alice Sparkly Kat, also known as Ace, wrote the book Postcolonial Astrology: Reading the Planets through Capital, Power, and Labor, where they survey the role of Western astrology in maintaining political power. They write: “A lot of people are surprised when I tell them astrology has lived longer as a right-wing practice than anything left-leaning. I don’t understand why. Adolf Hitler, J.P. Morgan, and Ronald Reagan all used astrology.”
According to Ace, the West expresses itself through “the manufactured memory of Roman idealism,” and the zodiac amplifies this through its Roman imagery. Ace challenges Western astrologers who impose Greco-Roman ideas as universally applicable to all identities and experiences. This imposition involves gendered and hierarchical archetypes, such as the Sun and Jupiter exerting higher dominance than the rest of the celestial bodies, or Cancer serving as the feminine mother sign of the zodiac, and Capricorn as the masculine father. A number of Western astrologers have used this mystical system to assert superiority and control, and in doing so, have commodified the stars to satisfy capitalistic greed.
Astrology’s recent increase in popularity has resulted in the commercialization of the cosmos. Social media trends, zodiac-related products, and even the rise of online scammers impersonating prominent astrologers on social media are suddenly rampant. This kind of pop astrology removes the study from its context and waters it down through memes and satire that oversimplify the signs, which capitalism tends to do. But using astrology as a marketing opportunity is ironic, considering its history.
In many cultures, astrology is sacred and has existed for thousands of years. In India, the early use of Hindu or Vedic astrology determined calendar dates for rituals and holidays, as well as specific days for making significant life choices. Newborns are also named according to their natal charts. Today, schools in India offer Vedic astrology courses, as it is now considered a trusted science in their education system.
Native American astrology is based on the medicine wheel and each calendar division is assigned an animal totem that embodies specific personality traits. For instance, if a person is born during what Western astrology considers the Leo season, they are associated with the salmon. The salmon is creative, passionate, and takes risks to get where they need to be. The purpose of Native American astrology is to be in harmony with the natural world. Brady Wakayama explains that “the core philosophy of Native American birth totems is connectivity. People are connected to the universe, the stars, and nature as a whole.” The stars are sacred to these Indigenous communities, because they serve as a compass to their ancestry and our sense of interdependence.
There is also the potential for this ancient system to be a liberatory force and a tool for self-compassion. Astrology offers language to people who have a difficult time expressing themselves, especially when it comes to complex feelings and inner tensions. Gamboa finds that by combining drama therapy with birth-chart information, “the client is allowed to express what may have been inarticulate.” In her research, astrology not only brings self-understanding, but also brings folks together in community—sharing similar interests and questions about life, marveling at the sky for insight.
Consulting the stars can also be a form of subversion to colonial systems of power, such as Christian hegemony. People who’ve been traumatized by the church and by Christian dogma can continue their search for transcendence in astrology, as a way to heal beyond spiritual trauma.
Astrology has been a guide for folks who do social-change work, giving them a feel for the potential mood of the people and systems around them. For example, Chani Nicolas did a recent astro-forecast on Saturn arriving in Pisces, lasting through May 2025. Because Saturn, the planet of governance and rules, is currently in Pisces, a water sign known for benevolence and mutability, we can collectively anticipate rigidities to soften and restrictions to lift. This can be beneficial in contexts known to be systemically punitive. With this information, organizers and unions who lobby legislators and negotiate with executives can utilize this cosmically opportune period to make or demand the changes they want in the workplace and in communities. In my personal work with mentees, we analyze birth charts to find their individual strengths and optimize them in organizing spaces. For example, we examine Mercury, the planet of communication and reason, in their charts and identify the most effective ways of communicating or distributing information so that they can apply these skills in unions and protests. Astrology can be the map to our personhood, illuminating skills that can be fostered for the greater good. “Others see astrology as having the power not just to explain the political situation but also to change it,” says Christine Smallwood.
Ace calls in the practice of reconstruction through a collectivist and queer lens: “Queer people are reinterpreting astrology in our own way too, because some of it’s really gendered, and it can be a little bit rigid. But then we just play with those meanings.” Togetherness and (re)imagining possibilities seem to be foundational in studying the cosmos. Astrology is a map that directs us to deep connections and meaning-making.
Wherever you are with astrology, we can rest in the thought that, as human beings, we are enchantingly robust, meaning-making creatures. Many moons ago, humans from all over the world were able to make images out of bright and scattered celestial bodies in the sky. They traced the lines between the stars and drew the ox, the fish, the scales, the archer, and so forth. They assigned stories that widely resonate and endure centuries later, preserved and revered by their descendants. There is a deep comfort in knowing that we are wired for wonder, and in that wonder, we create tools for self-realization, compassion, connection, and justice.
Gabes Torres is a psychotherapist, organizer, and artist. Her work focuses on anti-colonial approaches and practices within the mental health field. She also focuses on abolitionist organizing on a global scale.
Printed with permission from YES! Magazine.