Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Astrology, the occult art of charting celestial influences in mundane affairs, is more widespread and diversified than ever, owing to the aid of digital and social media. Natal astrology in particular, which centers on personal biographies and psychic dynamics based on the positioning of planets and fixed stars as seen from Earth at the moment of one’s birth, has captivated public interest in North America in ways that go far beyond tabloid horoscopes, becoming for many an avenue of personal counseling, a source of spiritual edification, and an interpretive lens for making sense of life-cycles, relationships, and history. Social groups and gatherings formed around studying astrological charts have become popular sites for the circulation of astrological knowledge, and they often involve hermeneutic exercises focused on the lives of celebrities and historical figures. Using information from media headlines and biographies of famous (or infamous) people, practicing astrologers and enthusiasts turn natal charts into normative texts, demonstrating the value of horoscopic techniques and instantiating archetypal principles. In the absence of specific moral doctrines or uniform structures of belief, conversations about celebrities become fodder for deeper meditations on the nature and metaphysics of human behavior and consciousness. Based on research among working astrologers in the US, this paper considers the significance of celebrity lives as microcosmic teleological narratives that facilitate shared experiences of ethical and epistemological discovery using polyvalent astrological symbols and concepts.