A case for believing

The practice of using celestial objects for predictions dates back to ancient Mesopotamia.

Yosemite National Park was a memorable vacation spot for columnist Jenna Peterson over spring break where she admired the night sky. (Jenna Peterson / Daily Trojan)

I’ve always taken for granted how easy it was to see the stars most nights back home in Vermont. After a late play rehearsal or field hockey game in high school, the first part of my evening routine — no matter how brief — was to look up and admire the Big Dipper shining down on me. I wasn’t yet astrology obsessed, but part of me knew I had a bond with the stars, one that’s since become weaker in light-polluted Los Angeles.

This past spring break, my friends and I took a trip to Yosemite National Park, where poor time management and a lack of parking caused us to complete the last mile of our hike in the dark. Fear was starting to creep in — the lights from our cell phones were only slightly helpful in guiding us. But the second I looked up, awe stopped me in my tracks. Time didn’t matter anymore.

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Stars were sprinkled throughout the sky like a dress adorned with glitter. There must have been at least five times as many as in Vermont’s night sky, and infinitely more than any night in L.A.

I’ve since learned that neutron stars, the smallest type, can be as short as 12 miles wide. That’s pretty small for outer space, but it’s also about the distance from USC to Griffith Observatory — and we can’t even see them from Earth. The largest stars, supergiants, can be more than 1,500 times the diameter of the sun. The ones in between are the classic small dots we see in the sky — miles upon miles condensed into a single speck.

When I think back to Yosemite now, I struggle to conceptualize the vastness of outer space and how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

The moon controls the oceans’ tides. The sun is strong enough, even from 93 million miles away, to burn our skin. So is it really that big of a leap to believe the stars can influence how we move about the world?

As a journalist, I’m a stickler for facts. I’ll admit, there’s no scientific evidence for the legitimacy of astrology, so I can’t sit here and say it’s 100% true. But in today’s world of constant information and having every fact at our fingertips, it’s nice to learn about something that can’t necessarily be proven or disproven.

When I first became interested in astrology, I started by investigating my friends’ birth charts. My brain loves patterns, so I could instantly recognize that most of the people I’m close to have some kind of Taurus placement. I love my Sagittarius rising friends because they’re the life of the party wherever we go. I always have the best gossip sessions with Libra Mercurys because we communicate the same way.

All that’s fun, but astrological seasons are what truly convince me. For example, we’re currently at the point in the new year when people start to give up on their ambitious resolutions. But if you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense that we retreat back into our old habits so quickly. Why do we start new projects in the middle of winter, a time for slowing down and hibernation? Why not awaken with the astrological new year, which is perfectly timed at the beginning of spring?

As far back as 30,000 B.C.E., ancient Mesopotamians tracked the movement of the stars through cave paintings and notches on mammoth tusks. Before calendars and clocks, the sky was all humans had to measure time. They knew days were passing when the sun rose and set, and that it took 30 of those days for the moon to turn from new to full. Eventually, they could even predict eclipses and other major celestial events and began to assign spiritual meaning toward them, creating prophecies that often came to fruition.

Astrology even used to be regarded as one of the most esteemed forms of academia until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. Nicholas Copernicus attributed his sun-centered theory of the solar system to astrologers, and prestigious universities had astrology chairs. 

It’s nice to think that it might be part of human nature to find meaning in the stars. Whether a life-changing eclipse or a daily horoscope, astrology as a discipline has been around for thousands of years, and it’s here to stay.

So, if you’re curious, I’d encourage you to learn more about your birth chart and the charts of those around you. Even something as simple as putting the start of each astrological season or full moon in your calendar to see if you notice a shift in your energy can be enlightening, because once you start looking for the patterns, you realize they’re all around you.

Jenna Peterson is a senior writing about anything and everything astrology related in her column, “Written in the Stars.”

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