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The horizon has a backstory

The “zodiac” — a feature of Western astrology where the calendar year is divided into 12 signs depending on which constellations are in the sky when you’re born — started during the time of the Ancient Greeks.

Initially, astrology was considered a legitimate science, and people consulted the stars for matters great and small.

In Europe, by the end of the 13th century, astrology had become a regular part of medical practice. In fact, during the 1500s, doctors were required by law to calculate the position of the moon before performing surgery or blood-letting a patient.

Astrology as a legitimate study began to decline as scientific discoveries were made in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it would be revived as a form of popular entertainment in the first half of the 20th.

Although horoscopes had been published in many newspapers for hundreds of years, its modern phase is thought to have begun in 1930, when a British writer was inspired to write a horoscope for the newborn princess. “Daily horoscopes” became an instant phenomenon.

Then, a few decades later, horoscopes had a new heyday as part of a New Age consciousness — which brought back the belief that stars could tell our future.

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The future is in the apps

In order to stay relevant, businesses must evolve. Astrology is no different.

Once the internet showed up in most households, it was almost a given that astrology would go virtual, but it wasn't until the birth of smartphone app stores that astrology’s true 21st century form was revealed.

Starting in 2016, virtual astrology grew by leaps and bounds. Then in 2019, it reached critical mass — and investors took notice.

That year, Co-Star, which has a 4.8 out of 5 star review averaged from almost 184,000 reviews, raised over $5 million in seed money to bring its app to Android. Sanctuary, an app which combines astrology with the ability to text with a psychic, raised $1.5 million.

Data marketing firm Sensor Tower reported that the space grew 64.7% between 2018 and 2019 — and mobile users spent $39.7 million across the top 10 astrology apps.

According to The Washington Post, virtual astrology has gained even more ground since 2020, when the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the resulting mental health crisis saw thousands more turn to digital horoscopes for assurance.

How these apps make their profits is simple: You can download the app and get a generalized horoscope for free, but you pay for individualized readings.

How the skies “make it rain”

Before the internet, astrologers who were more formula-oriented consulted a reference called an ephemeris to make their predictions.

An ephemeris gives the planetary positions for each day of the year, providing a snapshot of where each planet is using the degrees of the zodiac. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, an ephemeris can look like pages and pages of mathematical code.

But in recent years the ephemeris has gone digital, with several early companies, like Astrodienst, making programmable software based on it.

The New York Times reports that apps like Co-Star have even started using A.I. to design its horoscopes. After the A.I. generates the data, Co-Star’s writers interpret it and write it down poetically.

According to Glass Door, the average salary for an astrologer working for Co-Star is $53,000 USD. A freelance writer’s median salary is $61,000.

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Famous star seekers

Astrology might have become an amusing footnote in American history if it hadn’t had some famous supporters.

Some important historical figures have used astrology in meaningful ways over the years.

Although President Reagan denied using it to guide his administrative decisions, after his 1981 assassination attempt, his wife Nancy began consulting an astrologist to schedule his appointments and travel. As USA Today notes, Mrs. Reagan had significant influence with her husband, advising him on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Famous psychiatrist Carl Jung was convinced horoscopes provided a psychological definition of your character, and that a person’s astrological chart could provide insight as to what that person’s soul wanted them to achieve.

In more recent years, Lady Gaga has admitted using astrology to determine her tour dates.

While there may have been crossover between science and astrology some time ago, over the last century it has definitely crept into the territory of entertainment-for-profit. According to some fans, though, this doesn’t change the fact that their favorite app’s predictions can be uncannily accurate.

However, if you’re a believer, we recommend using astrology to add a bit of spice to your life, rather than making it the main course.

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Bronwyn Petry Email Specialist

Bronwyn is currently part of the email content team for Moneywise. Before starting here, they freelanced for several years, focusing on B2B content and technical copy. Pre-pandemic, you could find them planning their next trip, but lately, if they're not at work, you can find them hanging out with their cat and dog.

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