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SA millennials are turning to astrology for answers in an uncertain world

29 December 2019 - 00:00 By Lisa Witepski
Increasingly, when life feels too uncertain for millennials, they lift up their eyes to the stars, writes Lisa Witepski
Increasingly, when life feels too uncertain for millennials, they lift up their eyes to the stars, writes Lisa Witepski
Image: 123RF/Robert Przybysz

Algorithms may rule most aspects of their lives, but when it comes to making big decisions, more and more millennials are seeking guidance from the stars.

Run a Google search on "millennials and astrology" and a host of newspaper articles testify to the fact that, as an LA Times headline puts it, "Millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals".

Illustrating the prevalence of the trend, an article from The Atlantic notes that internet traffic for The Cut's horoscope page grew 150% between 2017 and 2018.

Has this generation returned to the habits of its Age of Aquarius grandparents?

Elisabeth Kelan, professor of leadership and organisation at the University of Essex's Essex Business School, isn't surprised. "The world that millennials inhabit feels uncertain. Jobs for life are no more; they have to work longer until they can retire and they're told that digitalisation will make more jobs disappear.

"In uncertain times, people seek guidance - and astrology can provide this guidance or sense of certainty," she says.

This resonates for Kiearah Hyman, a marketing and activations co-ordinator. Kiearah says her interest in astrology was sparked by the tradition of "opening books" in Indian culture. "It's unusual to make big decisions without checking that the alignment of the stars is favourable," she says.

She reads her horoscope daily, weekly and monthly, and is careful to heed the advice. "If my horoscope tells me that it's a bad time for taking a risk, I'll remain under the radar. I've gone back and checked if the advice was right and it was."

Kiearah says many of her friends feel the same: "We're mocked as the generation that can't adult, but the truth is that many of us feel our parents didn't equip us with practical skills for handling the world. There's no book and no manual. We're winging it," she says.

This mirrors another of Kelan's insights: "Relinquishing control to a higher power is a relief for millennials," she says.

This could be linked to the fact that millennials have been raised to believe they're in charge of their own success.

In a world where everything seems to depend on you, it can be reassuring to pretend your future is written in the stars
Elisabeth Kelan, professor of leadership and organisation at the University of Essex's Essex Business School

"Traditional markers of identity, like gender, used to determine your life chances. But millennials have been told that they're masters of their own destiny - so they're keen to improve themselves where they can. In a world where everything seems to depend on you, it can be reassuring to pretend your future is written in the stars."

Bheki, a 26-year-old who asked not to use his full name, says he did just that. Having lost his faith in the church, he feels he has few places to turn when it comes to finding answers to the big questions - so why not the skies?

He's compiled a Twitter list of horoscope sites, and reads them every morning. "It's motivating," he says, "and it gives me ideas about how to harness my strengths or improve areas of weakness."

Aida Coertse, a medium, psychic, healer and clairvoyant, says: "Millennials are the first generation born into technology, at the time when the world turned into a global village and the exchange of information between people and computers made life move at a more rapid pace and made them question the beliefs of previous generations."

The "Pluto Scorpion generation", as it's known, is "expressive and non-conformist", she says.

The trend's prevalence in South Africa makes sense to astrologer Linda Shaw. "This country is powerfully attractive to spiritual seekers," she says. "Africa has a wonderful history of magic and connection with the ancestors and ancient wisdom. But when we became the New South Africa, it was a country reborn, with a new birth chart.

The New South Africa has an Aquarian personality, encouraging individuals to find their inner genius
Astrologer Linda Shaw

"The New South Africa has an Aquarian personality, encouraging individuals to find their inner genius. It's a free-spirited country encouraging individuals to fend for themselves and make their own rules. We're forced to find our own power source.

"As a people, we want to explore the depths of our reality and our consciousness. For most South Africans, the foundation has already been laid by a traditional upbringing based on ancient beliefs.

"Astrology is one of many symbolic languages, designed to help us read energy. Slowly we're all being drawn to a greater understanding of how energy works. For millennials, that process is easier, more obvious, and more useful," says Shaw.


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