The cultural appropriation of astrology

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Courtesy of Muhan Basnet

Within several Nepali traditions, all kinds of celebrations are used involving astrology. Shown above is the holiday Dashian.

Caity Burke, Social media manager

With the rise of new fashion, music, and trends, today’s generations are reinventing themselves, and what’s considered to be “popular”. With an increase in new interests, astrology has found itself in the spotlight. As teenage girls purchase tarot cards, crystals, and incense, the obliviousness to such expenditures can be offensive to cultures that center their belief systems around astrology.

The interest in astrology has dramatically increased during the last decade. Believers of astrology use the stars and alignments of the planets to decipher the path their lives may take. It helps users discover what their futures may look like when it comes to financial success, love lives, and overall well being; at least for those who use ‘modern’ astrology, also known as the Western system

Considering the fact that astrology is forbidden within the Bible, most religions support it and incorporate it into their culture and daily lives. It raises questions about the awareness of astrology’s background for Christians who use it. 

Astrology is most popular in India, where citizens use what’s known as Vedic Astrologyfocusing on astral patterns of light and how those patterns influence the destiny, or Dharma, of humans. Karma is an element that heavily influences the Vedic system being created about five thousand years ago.

Chinese astrology, or Sheng Xiao, is an ancient astrological practice originating from the Han Dynasty. Users strongly value yin yang, along with elemental, natural, and lunar inferences. There are also 12 Chinese Zodiac signs represented by animals, and is said to be more accurate than the zodiac signs.

The birth chart is vital to Nepali culture. Nepali birth charts determine their horoscope, or ‘Cheena’. A Cheena is created for every child after their birth and is imperative throughout their lives. At special occasions like rice feeding, sacred thread and weddings, astrologers are commonly consulted and welcomed. 

It is amazing that the people of young generations have grown a fondness for astrology. Genuinely validating and celebrating other cultures and their beliefs, along with research, is a respectable, and amazing way to base one’s life upon. However, modern astrology practices among white American cultures in walking the line between appreciation and appropriation. 

Students at PV also value astrology, as it comes with their religion. Junior Muhan Basnet has mixed feelings on the rise of astrology within younger generations, “I connect especially closely with astrology because of the cultural history that Hinduism shared with it. I see a lot of mainstream media and business profit off of the twisted versions of my beliefs and can’t help but feel unappreciated and unimportant. I think that anyone is welcome to learn about astrology,” She shared, “However seeing the societal stigma against it makes me upset.” 

People who often use astrology should stay informed on the background of astrology, where it comes from, and how it has been used globally for centuries. This way, they can appreciate and celebrate other religions, rather than taking ownership of their traditions. 

Sumika Thapa also finds certain usage of astrology to be disrespectful to her culture, and ways of life. “I think that since mainstream media is pushing forward ideas of manifestation and using the stars to map their lives, it ends up taking aspects of the religion that have been taught the wrong way, leading to misinformation. Above all it is disrespectful,” Thapa shared. 

Some put their faith in the Bible, while others use the universe. Astrology is the prime value in several religions, and individuals let their lives be affected by the placement of the planets, representing its significance in their lives. Astrology can be loved and appreciated by anyone, although users of astrology need to be aware of its background and importance to other religions, in order to steer clear of appropriating rather than appreciating astrology’s practices.