Dear Madame Zolonga: Why is so much astrology bull?

Posted by Planet Waves


A reader seeing red asks Madame Z, “Why is so much astrology bullshit?” Assuming the reader is a friend of astrology looking for an honest answer, Madame tiptoes through the pasture of ‘popular’, personality-based astrology and the ways it has diverged from what is, in fact, an ancient, complex system with deep roots, with a few writerly, insightful astrologers who can still be found practicing it.

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Dear Madame,

Why is so much astrology bullshit?

— Mad Cow

Dear Moo,

Lacking any context for your question, let’s assume that you actually find some astrology useful but loathe the “bullshit” remainder. In other words, you’re a friend of astrology looking for an honest answer.


To answer your question, we’ll need different buckets for this bullshit. Not all cow patties stink the same, and the turds get topical once you get used to the smell.

But here’s the big picture: most Bullshit Astrology is personality based. In an age that has practically deified narcissism, Bullshit Astrology offers a portable alter upon which you can sacrifice any ‘difficult’ or ‘hard’ feelings to the god of your self image, satisfied the whole thing’s ordained. Or reduce your enemies to one-dimensional one-liners.

And we know how easily narcissism (and simple insecurity) is exploited for cash.

I could go on all day, but I don’t have all day for this. So we’ll start with the obvious offenders, and some secrets behind the world of popular (and sometimes Bullshit) astrology.

Turd Bucket #1: General interest Sun Sign astrology books. Ever notice how Sun sign books tend to repeat the same shopworn, clichéd descriptions? Here’s why. Mainstream publishers have no interest in actual astrology. Shocking, I know. But they do love the way it sells, and you can trace this success all the way back to the 1920s and ‘30s when Sun sign astrology got cookin’ for the first time.

Many mainstream or ‘gift’ books are written by in-house staff (or ghost writers) who cut & paste the last edition, tweak the cultural references, and then ship it over to the art department, where they spiff up the front window with a new vector graphic, and — ta da! Next’s year’s “Total Aquarius Truths!” Just in time for the holiday$.

Turd Bucket #2: Horoscopes, the whipping boy of the astrology world. At one time smart, writerly, insightful astrologers usually wrote these things. Periodicals were known for their horoscope columnists, and subscribers loyally supported their favorites. The astrology wasn’t usually bullshit.

However, in a cost-cutting piqué, media producers in recent years have sacked many actual astrologers or cut horoscope columns altogether. Astrologers compete with the hundreds of horoscopes offered, gratis, on the Internet today, many of which are computer generated.

Sun sign horoscopes lived on as ‘entertainment’ for almost a century, and the logical consequence of that assumption is what’s happening now: editorial direction need not apply. If your horoscopes lack verve and intelligence — or accuracy — they’re most likely written by a junior staff member who makes them up from whole cloth. Because, entertainment. It’s all fiction, anyway. Amirite?

Turd Bucket #3: The computerized astrology report. If one report’s great, how ‘bout seven million? For many, this is the gateway drug of the serious astrology world. Yes, the best-written reports give glimpses of the true person beneath all that paper, the life buried beneath social conditioning. But sorting the shit from the shinola? They can’t.

Business savvy programmers with astro-chops and a knack for knowing the weaknesses of human behavior jumped into the Internet boat early and rowed that thing hard and straight to stardom and wealth. Answers about Love? Betrayal? Loneliness? Lottery numbers? Come and get ‘em!

Yes, they built empires that introduced millions to a strange and largely hidden art, but their creations reduced a 4,000-year-old tradition to a 40-page document, for the price of less than your dinner tonight. Talk about devaluation.

Turd Bucket #4: NewAgeism. Who knows when the New Age began (1781? 1846? 1916? 1968?) but folks are still selling the hell out of it, so the shop’s not closing anytime soon. NewAgeism is the astrological stage next for many: if you’re not gonna get laid with astrology, you might as well get engaged to an Enlightened Being, right?

Pros: spend enough time looking at the gears in this watch, and you can’t help but think that the mechanism’s much, much bigger than you. So for a moment you do step outside your ego, and discover your spiritual being — which, in itself, is a good thing.

Cons: You become a VSP (Very Spiritual Person), with astrology the filter through which you strain the gnat of quotidian materia — proof of your evolution as an enlightened being of the 5th Ray. Here’s where the marriage of astrology and NewAgeism gets unholy. Astrology is not a religion or a spiritual system. It predates Jung, Freud, Blavatsky, Rudyar and, heck, even Jesus. Astrology belongs to no one and everyone.

Unlike astrology, the current ‘new age’ movement lacks a system and historical precedent to define it. Throwing them together ends up looking like Silly Putty: you can squish it into any shape, press it against some words and made something like the original image, but never as clear. Which doth invoke much disdain, and the creation of things like the New Age Bullshit Generator.

Turd Bucket #5: Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook. Sun Sign self-absorption reductio ad absurdum. It’s everywhere, like dust mites — bad for your health and almost impossible to avoid or eliminate. “A Leo friend would never turn their back on you.” “When a Virgo says they care, it’s for real.”

Who writes this stuff?! Geniuses.

Geniuses of marketing, I mean. Why bother with the book, when you can pin it in seconds? Your Inner Goddess as click bait. But hey, your friends will you know faster. Right? Don’t mess with me: “I’m a bad-ass Scorpio.” And monetized, as well!

I’m sorry to say that, indeed, much of the popular astrology you see is probably inauthentic, narcissistic, navel-gazey bullshit. Or if you prefer, it’s as much astrology as Velveeta is cheese. Both are basically ‘products’ built for convenience and commerce. And like Velveeta, this popular astrology gets extruded through machinery meant for mass production. It’s found everywhere, is largely inoffensive and inexpensive, comforts the comfortless, and sells like gangbusters to unsophisticated palates.

However, the historical practice of astrology has been more like real cheese making. It takes time, and it takes training to get it right. The varieties of astrology run from mild to sharp, and everything in between. Beyond personality and the natal chart, did you know about the astrological art of forecasting weather? How ‘bout the astrology of stock markets, geology, politics, news, sport and health?

Nothing under the heavens has escaped its scope. Nothing. And the people who practice and study astrology have been and are equally diverse: priests, astronomers, philosophers, mathematicians, geologists, computer engineers, lawyers, professors, journalists, artists and musicians, to name a few backgrounds. Speak three languages? Sure! Polymaths? We got ‘em! Buddhists, Jungians, Jews, Catholics and Christians. Anarchists, atheists and agnostics. Witches and Gnostics, too. And every political stripe.

Diverse, we are. But we all dig the weirdness of astrology, and its wonder. Its true beauty can only be glimpsed in the best horoscope columns, books, and websites. Fortunately, they can be found (cough). You are, after all, reading this on Planet Waves — a website that champions not only the true art of astrology, but also the Art of Service.

It’s my hope you’re encouraged enough to dig for more of these gems, assured by my words that astrology is much more than a crass cash grab. And assured that those who practice astrology in a way that actually offers you food for thought, healing and growth do, in fact, deserve your support and participation in tangible ways, such as through membership. It’s so much more than bullshit in a bucket.

Good hunting, my friend.

– Madame Z

11 thoughts on “Dear Madame Zolonga: Why is so much astrology bull?

  1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

    Amen, Madame; Amen!

    For a while, I was “collecting” bullshit, one-dimensional, personality-based astrology memes that I was seeing on Facebook — especially the ones that somehow did not mention all 12 signs (talk about lazy, sloppy work)! I think I had some idea about “doing something” with them here on PW, but couldn’t think of a worthy project. And then I just got a little dispirited about how many people would grab onto them and share them. Sigh……

  2. Michael MayesMichael Mayes

    Quality over quantity. Everything in moderation, that includes astrology. I don’t live my life in a bubble of astrology. Sometimes I rebel against my horoscope on purpose. Also, consider the following, the entirety of which is from “Pronoia”:

    “Bullshit is a rare and valuable commodity,” rhapsodized Art Kelps in the Boo Hoo Bible. “The great masters have all been superb bullshitters. Horseshit, on the other hand, refers to downright crap. The free, playful, entertaining flight of ideas is bullshit, and more often than not will be found afterward to accord perfectly with universal truth. Horseshit is contrived, derivative, superstitious, ignorant.”
    “Bullshit is creative, inspired myth-making intended to provoke growth,” added Alan Cabal in the Village Voice, “while horseshit is bottom-feeder derivative manipulation aimed at the endless acquisition of slaves, servants, and followers.”

    1. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

      Oh, my! That delightful defense of bullshit sounds as if it was written by Taurii, at the expense of horsey Saggos. ;-) But I wouldn’t want to generalize.

      And I agree; as I said to a friend just yesterday, “It’s not good to camp out in esoterica.” The caution is that living on the fringes of life impoverishes one’s contributions to the whole.

  3. Sarah TaylorSarah Taylor

    Ack! I used to collect bullshit too, Amanda – unfortunately, there was absolutely no irony in my decision to do so, mass-BS-consumer that I was. Still – it’s helped me into a more discerning state now. Having enjoyed a fair number of delicious Stiltons, Camemberts, Cheddars and the like, I’ve found that the taste of plastic-cheeze is immediately recognisable and about as nutritious as the package it comes in.

    Thank you, the divine Madame Z!

    1. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

      I wrote a very grumpy piece about Sun sign memes, including an example meme as illustration. Unfortunately, the picture from that entry got picked up on Pintrest and has been re-pinned dozens of times now, with few clicking through to read my post. Instead Pin-ners say, “Oh! That’s so totally me!” So inadvertently I’ve contributed to the BS. (Or HS, as it may be.)

      [thumps head on table]


  4. Len WallickLen Wallick

    Thank you, Madame Z, for getting a lot off my chest. To echo Jude, your service here is indeed exquisitely artful (and, let us not forget, also fun). i tip my hat and also bow to your artistry.

  5. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

    Everyone, thank you! Glad the question came in, and glad to answer it. Some folks just don’t know how the sausage is made. I didn’t, either, until I was deeper into the doo. Or the goo.

    Have a great holiday, everyone! I truly appreciate your support here. :-) Wishing you all a safe, long weekend.

  6. Sara Victoria

    OMGawd – love. Another turd worth mentioning is that publishers of tabloid newspapers will exert heavy influence to keep everything easy-peasy.. I worked for a popular columnist carried by a number of big name mags and newspapers and they only WANT Velveeta! At least the publishers I indirectly worked for. Great piece..

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