Friday, October 12, 2007

Written in the stars

Astrology is all pervasive throughout society, from those of us who always check one twelfth of the daily horoscope, to others who use birth dates as a suitability mechanism for dating. "What's your starsign?" is a bit of a cliché but an ice breaker for many.

In my youth, I could see a bit of a causal relationship with personality types; friends often aligned somewhat with their stereotypes. I knew that newspaper horoscopes were at best dubious (I've met at least two journalists from local papers who admitted to making them up) but back in the late 70s I even went so far as to buy a large coffee table book called, simply, ARIES. (One of a set, of course!) With hindsight, I think I had been influenced at the time by the need to impress someone of the fairer sex who was into this sort of thing. The large book explained the main character traits of the starsign, proceeded deeper to show the various planetary influences which explained the subtleties of why we Aerians aren't all the same, then had tables and charts to be able to plot a personal horoscope based on exact date/time and latitude/longitude of birth. Why the planetary influence of being squidged out screaming was so important wasn't entirely explained and I seem to remember there may have even been a school of thought that your starsign was based on when you would have been born if you were a premature baby, but I digress.

So, anyway, I went through life thinking that stars were a bit of fun but occasionally right and maybe there was something in that personality types business.
Then, many years later, I spent a week on a very intense (and expensive) Management Course at Cranfield University. We spent a lot of time talking about different personality types and how they worked together. Eventually, on the last but one day, someone piped up and asked the instructor if there was anything in astrology. He replied something to the effect of "The results are found to align within statistical distribution norms", i.e. it was bollocks.

So why do we see the traits we want to see and play down the ones we don't? I put it down to Cognitive Dissonance, the same syndrome that lets me see the spelling mistakes in everyone else's blog but not my own.

After that point, I lost interest in even having a crafty shufty of my horoscope and if asked my sign, replied that I was a Caesarian. (Or if I had used that line before, then I was on the cusp between a Libra and a Capricorn- a Leprechaun.

(Zodiac woodblock Public Domain, Attribution for colour woodblock under creative commons here)


jmb said...

My mother-in-law was a big believer in Astrology and did some charts when my children were born. I'm afraid that I was not really interested since I thought it was "bollocks" too.
My husband and I are both Scorpios and we couldn't be more different although that not doubt is due to the moon and the planets in different houses or rising or waning or ?????
I like the image.

Shades said...

It is interesting that astrology manifests itself in different ways across different cultures. Mind you, so does religion.

Wikipedia is a great source for public domain and creative commons images, when I look back at older posts the images have often gone.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I gave up on it when I read that as an Acquarian, I am supposed to be scientific!