Brigitte, Vogue or Schweitzer Illustration: Many magazines now contain annual horoscopes in which astrologers predict what the new year will be like. Such annual horoscopes are especially searched for on Google at the turn of the year. This year is no different. But why do people search for it so much? Interview with religious scholar Coco von Stockrad.
Coco from Stockrad
Coco von Stockrad is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He has been researching astrology for decades, has written several books on the subject and has in-depth knowledge of this interpretation system.
SRF News: Is astrology trendy?
Coco von Stockrad: It depends on the field of astrology. For example, the simple form of horoscope interpretation has gotten bigger: you can now access relatively sophisticated astrology via apps and online chat rooms. This is treated very comically – even by young people. There is definitely a trend there.
This digital focus has also brought success to the entire field of astrology. Throughout Western Europe we are seeing some growth in membership in astrological organizations. But it is too early to talk about a breakthrough here. Most astrologers I know still cannot make a living from their art.
How many people believe in astrology?
According to surveys conducted in Western Europe, 20 to 30 percent of the population say that there is something in astrology. In some countries, astrology is more popular than Christianity.
If you look at the reliability of horoscopes, you will see that the level of customer satisfaction with professional horoscope interpretation is surprisingly high. It gets bigger the deeper you go into your zodiac sign. On the one hand, such positive experiences can be justified by the fact that the interpretation of the horoscope is based on a personal conversation between the astrologer and the client. But you can also say that there is something in the zodiac.
For centuries, the arithmetic branch of astronomy, astronomy, and the branch of interpretation, astrology, formed a common scientific system. Astrology interpretations were largely based on astronomy calculations. It was only in the 17th and 18th centuries that astronomy split, giving rise to many of the hostilities against astrology that we still see today – “the legacy of science,” as von Stockrad put it.
There is nothing scientific in favor of astrology. No study can support this interpretation system. Why does it still attract people?
For example, falling in love cannot be measured scientifically. However, everyone knows that it is possible to fall in love. Most people close to astrology don't care about this scientific claim as long as it suits them.
Astrology is also a way to seek self-knowledge.
Are people more receptive to astrology in times of crisis (the Gaza and Ukraine wars, the climate crisis)?
I think so. In times of crisis, astrology has always flourished in Europe. This was already the case during the Reformation and also at the beginning of the twentieth century. Astrology offers people the opportunity to record their lives within a larger cosmic framework. This is the meaning that appeals to many today.
Do you also see the risks that the growing interest in astrology brings?
I would not base the potential risks on astrology per se, but on how to deal with them. Some people may have a certain predisposition to depend on others. These can be astrologers, but also therapists or yoga teachers.
I do not think that the probability of getting into problematic relationships by studying astrology is higher than with other systems – quite the opposite. Astrology today is also partly an opportunity to work on one's personality, to confront one's dark side and to seek self-knowledge.
Interview conducted by Nico Schwab.
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