"Astrology is so fake, come on."
"Anyone can relate to any sign if it's broad enough."
"You really think a website is going to tell you what'll happen this week???"
These are all things I, someone who checks my Leo reading every day, am so sick of hearing. First off, people should be allowed to indulge in their monthly predictions without someone blabbering away about how it's all made up (which is almost always a straight man talking down to a woman, by the way). But more than that: assuming that something holds no truth or value to people simply because you don't understand it is really annoying!
Which is why I asked three astrologers: Chris Brennan, Annabel Gat, and Jakesastrology, to weigh in on the most smartass questions about zodiac signs, for both people who genuinely want to understand themselves better, and for people who won't stop making fun of them for it.
Let's start with the one question literally everyone throws out to prove they've outsmarted the whole system: "Why is astrology is based on birth, and not conception?"
The exact second you're conceived isn't crucial to your sign. “You're casting a chart for when the child begins life independent from the mother," says Chris Brennan. “In ancient times, an embryo was viewed as an extension of the mother’s body until birth, sort of like an apple is still part of a tree until it ripens and falls off the branch.” Jakesastrology adds, “A birth is like an announcement or reveal of who that baby is.”
"If astrology is real, why are my daily horoscopes either spookily correct or very inaccurate?"
“Astrology is based on a language of archetypes, which are interpreted by people, so of course it’s inherently flawed,” says Annabel Gat. She also goes on to say that your sun sign horoscope—which is your main sign and what most online daily horoscopes are based off of—is very limiting. “It doesn’t take into account any of the other unique placements people have in their chart.” Plus, as Chris Brennan notes, “daily columns take the entire sign into account as a whole, even though the precise position of the sun is different for those born at the beginning of the sign versus the end of the sign—Scorpios born in late October versus those born in mid-November.”
So if you're discounting all of astrology based on inconsistent horoscopes, you're missing out.
"If horoscopes are more complicated, why is the focus usually only on the sun signs then?"
“The sun sign in astrology represents the foundation of who you are as a person,” says Jakesastrology. “Because of this, a lot of people easily relate to their sun signs, and therefore there’s a super wide appeal to sun sign astrology.” For more accurate readings on who you are as a person, you can look up your moon sign (which deals more with your emotions) and your rising sign or ascendant (which is about how you view yourself) to get a fuller picture, as they depend on your location and exact time of birth.
"If I don't naturally relate to my sun sign, can reading enough about it make me subconsciously change my behavior so that I do?"
To start, there are a few reasons why you, an intense travel lover, don't relate to your Taurus description about being a homebody. “Most people do have different sun, moon, Mercury, and ascendant placements, so they don’t really fully resonate with just one sign,” says Chris Brennan. He also adds that, in some cases, people can grow into their signs and become more confident over time, matching their Aries reading.
But can you force yourself to be a sign you're not? “People who feel compelled to change their self-expression with astrology rarely succeed, and I’m actually a great example of that," says Jakesastrology. “I had my birth time off by only 10 minutes the first time I looked at my own birth chart, and it said I was a Leo-rising. Leo-risings are able to steal the spotlight and are naturally enthusiastic and theatrical. That’s not me at all. I’m usually shy when I’m in new environments and it takes me a second to get out of my shell. I tried to change and be more bold and loud, and it didn’t work out at all. When I actualized my birth chart with the correct time, and found out I was a Virgo-rising, it all made sense.”
“Why are other people who share my sign so annoying?”
Because you are more than just your sun sign, you can feel like you have nothing in common with a fellow Gemini. “Even if you share the exact same birthday as someone, if you were born at 2 p.m. and the other person was born at 3 p.m., your whole chart would be shifted,” says Jakesastrology. “If you’re a Leo Sun with an Aries Moon, you’d be much more bold and brash than a Leo Sun with a Taurus Moon.”
And even when it comes to zodiac signs, nature versus nurture can come into play. “Family and environmental factors play a major role in shaping people,” says Chris Brennan. “Are you a Scorpio that grew up in a family of Scorpios, or are you a Scorpio who grew up in a family of Leos? How did that impact the way that you express those qualities in your life? Were your characteristics encouraged or inhibited?”
All to say: if you see a Capricorn you're embarrassed to be associated with, you can relax. There are so many other factors to consider.
“How do different time zones work with Sun signs? In theory, could I be a Leo in New York but a Cancer in LA?”
Nope! Because astrology is reliant on the ecliptic, which is the circular path that the sun appears to follow over the course of a year, *your* specific location when you were born is really important. This is especially important for signs like your moon sign: “The moon moves about 12 degrees on the ecliptic daily, so if you don’t take into account birth time and location, your moon sign could be a completely different sign, or form different angles to the other planets,” says Jakesastrology.
“How does relationship compatibility work then? If we're compatible sun signs but clashing moon signs, are we doomed as a couple?”
Yes and no. “Typically, if your sun signs are compatible, then there is something about who you are at a core level that resonates with the other person,” says Chris Brennan. Similarly, having compatible moon signs means you connect more emotionally, just like having compatible Mercury signs means you communicate well and compatible Venus and Mars signs mean you vibe well sexually.
“Most relationships are a combination of having one or two or even three of these, or maybe just not having the most ideal alignments and therefore having some things to work on,” adds Brennan. “A lot still seems to be up to the two individuals involved in terms of how invested they feel in the relationship and what concessions they are willing to make to maintain it.” AKA, no matter what your compatibility is, you still have to put the work in.
“Can we talk about Mercury Retrograde? How can a planet *appearing* to move in reverse affect us if it's just an illusion?”
Jakesastrology explains this phenomenon: “When a planet goes retrograde, the optical illusion makes it appear to slow down, then stop. During this time, the traits and themes of the planet are felt in a way that feels discombobulated or disruptive.”
Ok, but why does this supposedly ruin all of our lives at once? Chris Brennan explains that astrology is not about the planets being literal forces that change how you feel. Instead, it's all about symbolism and how the planets appear to the observer—for instance, the 10th house of astrology represents our public life because it's the most visible to the observer. By that logic, Mercury Retrograde, where the planet of communication appears to move backwards, makes us more prone to getting into spats with our partners and all sorts of nastiness.
“Aside from Mercury Retrograde, I feel like I never see any negative horoscopes. Why does no one tell me that my day will be trash and I should just stay home?”
Honestly, this one generally depends on the astrologer. “My take is: why predict doom when you can offer more constructive advice?,” says Annabel Gat. “My horoscope might say, 'today is a crappy day for love, but it’s a good time to reflect on boundaries or catch up with yourself.' Astrology should be intellectually nourishing, as well as helpful in planning the best day to ask out your crush.”
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.