Long Reads

Should we trust our zodiac signs? A horoscope writer reveals all

Do you read our zodiac signs? Many of us believe our horoscopes can readily predict the future, but how accurate are our star signs really? A woman who was paid to write fake horoscopes for a magazine reveals all…

“Are you ready for your horoscope?” I asked, smirking at my boyfriend across the dinner table.

He jokingly rolled his eyes as I pulled my phone from my pocket and began to tell him exactly how his week was about to go down. This week’s zodiac was more accurate than ever. It talked about his new job, desire to travel, and it even gave subtle mention to the petty squabble we’d had the night before, over how spicy to make our curry. His horoscopes were always so accurate – perhaps because I was the one writing them.

I was working as a writer in a marketing agency and part of my role involved creating a weekly astrology column for a psychic hotline. When I first started the job and learned what my days would entail, I warned my manager that I didn’t know the first thing about astrology. She reassured me this wasn’t a problem because I could just google other horoscopes and reword them.

horoscope star sign
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Horoscope writing quickly became the highlight of my working week. At first, I tried to do everything by the book and would diligently research each star sign’s personality traits.

When I got bored of this approach, I started winging it. I began writing inspirational words of encouragement for the people in my life. I’d write instructions for my boyfriend, sweet well wishes for my parents, and in-jokes for my friends. There was a woman at work I didn’t get along with. I’d write a horoscope for her, too… and it was never a pleasant one. I became hungry with power. 

My boss hired an intern who became my biggest fan. She often emailed to say how accurate my horoscopes were. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d based them on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Using TV for inspiration became a regular thing for me. From Queer Eye to Orange Is The New Black, no show was off-limits. I’d give each character a star sign and make up a horoscope based on what had happened in the latest episode.

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During periods of political turmoil, I’d use politicians for inspiration instead. I was disappointed to learn that two of my most hated politicians shared my star sign. Being the selfless individual that I am, I took one for the team and tried to mess with their week using the power of the stars. Frustratingly, I went on to have a really awful few days while the politicians seemed to be thriving.

Sometimes I’d turn to Spotify for inspiration, challenging myself to shoehorn as many song titles into the horoscopes as possible without it being too obvious. 

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Horoscopes are often described as ‘deliberately vague’ and this critique often felt like a dare to make them more specific than ever. No one ever commented to say I’d described Capricorn’s personality incorrectly or got their prediction wrong. I think there’s an element of self-reflection there and many astrology readers believe that in order for their horoscope to come true, they have to act on it.

When the boyfriend I told you about at the start of the story dumped me (it wasn’t something I forecasted), I started writing empowering ‘scopes for myself in an attempt to heal my heartbreak.

I kissed a random guy in a club one night and when we wandered into the smoking area to have a proper conversation, I told him about my job. After an awkward debate over the ethics of creating content for a psychic hotline, he stubbed his cigarette out and walked back into the club without me. 

Friends would often ask if my horoscopes were ‘real’. I didn’t know how to answer that because I wasn’t sure what made them real and what made them fake. What qualifications or training would I have to have to make them legitimate? If I was more passionate about the alignment of the stars and planets, would that make my job less dishonest?

I never felt guilty for writing the horoscopes, but I did feel compassion for those whose interest in astrology became a gateway into calling the psychic hotline. The horoscopes were inundated with comments from grieving people looking for answers. Whether they were mourning the loss of a loved one or struggling with loneliness or infertility, people were turning to the horoscopes in really dark times.

horoscopes star sign 2019
Horoscopes and zodiac signs: The #astrology hashtag has been used 4.4m times on Instagram

While many horoscope fans could be described as vulnerable and desperately searching for answers, others use it as a form of entertainment and escapism. I watched with excitement as horoscopes became increasingly mainstream and memeable. It was satisfying to be a small part of a phenomenon that was gaining momentum and bringing a lot of fun to the internet.

The zodiac has been around for thousands of years, but it’s evolved considerably over time and is treated differently depending on where in the world you are. In the 60s and 70s, astrology experienced a resurgence thanks to the New Age movement, but it quickly took a backseat again. As a teenager you might have used star signs to determine whether your crush fancied you, but over the last few years astrology has really taken on a new lease of life.

Social media has played a role in its growth, with #astrology being used 4.1m times and #astrologymemes more than 227,000 times on Instagram. No matter what your sign, you can find countless astrology accounts willing to tell you exactly who you are.

A 2015 YouGov study showed that 20% of Britons believe that star signs can tell you something about yourself or another person, but only 8% believe they can predict the future. The study showed that women are much more likely to believe in the power of the zodiac than men.

horoscope uk star sign
Horoscopes and zodiac signs: can the alignment of the stars and the zodiac really predict your personality?

Although there are certainly zodiac evangelists with a passion for using the placement of the sun, moon and planets to predict their paths in life, astrology is by no means an exact science. I think this is why it’s really taken on a life of its own over the last few years. While some take it very seriously, others simply treat it as a way to bond with friends and even find encouragement and inspiration in economically and politically uncertain times.

After a few years of horoscope writing, I left the marketing agency and my astrology adventure came to an end. Having written them myself, I do wonder how ‘real’ horoscopes can ever be. I think it’s simply a case of taking the mysterious rules of the zodiac seriously or getting creative and making them up as you go along. But as long as readers get pleasure out of them, what’s the problem?

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