A horoscope is really another name for a birth chart, or by exact definition a "look at the hour", so it also describes any astrological chart - by which we usually mean a circular diagram showing where the planets were, in the sky, at a given time. But the word horoscope has come to mean a short 'reading', for anyone born under one of the twelve zodiac signs (Aries to Pisces).
This reading usually provides an "outlook", a bit like a weather forecast, suggesting the nature of the energies around the person from a celestial point of view. There is a lot of confusion about Astrology because of horoscopes, which became popular through the mass media in the 1930s, when a man called Mr Naylor was invited by the Sunday Express to contribute a feature about the birth of Princess Margaret Rose in the British Royal Family. He made a prediction about events in her 7th year, which then appeared to come to pass.
There is a tendency to view the planets as "causal" entities - as though they have some power that ends up with various results occurring. Many astrologers will say that all that the planets do is reflect human behaviour - a view that I happen to agree with. Astrology is foremost a symbol system - people who have an interest in astrology may like to look at the stars in the sky and may even develop a feel for what they symbolise. It is, in my opinion, this meaning, this symbolism, that forms the language of astrology - and nothing more.
Because the traditional 7 planets move through regular cycles, it is possible to study those cycles with a time based focus that looks back at the past and forward to the future, as well as the present. Rather like with company accounts, it is easy to analyse the data and start to spot patterns. It is also easy to start building a kind of formula - if this behaviour is the result of that pattern then it can perhaps be repeated. But, just as business has its ups and downs and unpredictable, apparently new elements, so does astrology!
Besides, symbols often have many meanings and correspondences to real life events, people, places etc - quite which will be in play at any given time is not something that humans can know ahead with certainty. This is why, even when astrologers do make predictions, they only ever have a 50-50 chance of being right. Because predictions are forecasts and, just as with the weather or with the stock exchange, nobody can anticipate every possible eventuality - every freak occurrence or twist of the tale.
In spite of this, there is something tantalising about the potential to look into matters and find something meaningful. Humans need meaning in order to make sense of life. In difficult times, especially, we often look for some reassurance that we will be ok - that we will continue, hopefully without too much pain and suffering. How astrology becomes enticing in this context - and an avenue that people might turn to, perhaps even if they feel sceptical - is that it potentially provides some sort of promise or guidance. I say potentially because I think that we are all sometimes guilty of expecting too much; astrology can't tell us what to do or guarantee some kind of outcome. But it might tap into our consciousness in a way that brings some insight or a sense of direction. This can be comforting, in and of itself, when times are difficult. And let's face it, that can be fairly often for most humans if we are people with feelings and consciences.
All humans have to deal with emotions, one way or another and we all have to walk the line between faith and doubt, hope and fear at some time in our lives. Even when astrology confirms our worst fears, it could be argued that it helps us to accept the realities we are dealing with. One way or another, people continue to look for answers from astrology, in an uncertain world. And whether a person takes the subject seriously or not does not really matter. It is interesting that they come to look!
I have written horoscope columns for the media and websites for more than 25 years and am happy that, in their small ways, they have helped people with hope, inspiration and confirmation in times of need. Sometimes people do want a fuller reading, of course, which will be very specific to the personal date of birth. Those are offered on this site, in the readings section. If you would like to hire me to write a horoscope column or related media content please do email. Examples of past columns can be found here.