Canadians are hitching their wagons to the moon and stars.
Anxiety, fear and a need for reassurance have propelled astrology into people’s lives — more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they are practitioners of Western astrology, Vedic mystics from India, or Chinese Zodiac exponents, the new-day astrologers have the stars aligned in their favour.
But while astrologers go around generating hope and promises of a better future, this time they seem to have been blindsided by the new variant — Omicron: No alerts came from the astrology labs; and soothsayers with propitious words of comfort and insight seem to have placated the Zodiac watchers.
There are astrologers aplenty, like the stars, explaining planetary configurations to the clientele. Toronto-based Lady Samantha, of The Rock Store, for instance, confirms her private practice has grown substantially over the past few years.
“With my practice moving online during COVID-19, I am able to service clients in other countries and time zones too,” she says, adding that she has clients from all backgrounds, especially students for her classes and private sessions.
Alberta-based astrologer Donna Young says, on her website, that her clients in Canada and the United States have spiked by about 50 per cent during the pandemic, and some online astrology courses she teaches have been sold out for the first time. Charm Torres, an astrologer in Toronto, has seen a surge of interest in her services as well.
And it’s mostly been women accessing the services, according to Mario Canseco, president of Research Co. in Vancouver, who has coordinated public opinion surveys since 2003. He says “40 per cent women are more likely to lend credence to astrology (compared to) men (30 per cent).”
Canseco, who came to Canada from Mexico in 2000, said his research showed that, as of 2019, one in five Canadians (20 per cent) acknowledged paying attention to astrology, including 30 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.
Across Canada, Ontario had the largest proportion of residents who expressed belief in astrology at 42 per cent. His 2019 research was based on a representative national sample of 1,000 adults in Canada.
Monetizing the stars
The comfort blankets offered by the mystical services industry under North American skies also has business warming up.
Astrology entrepreneurs turned a pandemic period of turbulence into a digital economy valued at US$2.2 billion. Many of the big names in this wave of modern astrologers are Canadian, according to a Chatelaine article updated in 2020.
Barbara Smith, Business News Fellow for Business Insider, had reported an increased revenue for Astrology Apps that had already swooshed to nearly $40 million in 2019, according to data from app-tracking firm Sensor Tower.
Looking to the stars
Across the world, interest in Western astrology was already experiencing a renaissance in the years leading up to the pandemic. Instagram has seen a soaring numbers of star gazers’ meme accounts, and venture capital-backed astrology apps like Co-Star and Sanctuary are on the rise.
For Western astrology, the Canada Association for Astrological Education, a membership-based non-profit organization, has a “large network of educated and established astrology teacher members,” according to its website.
According to Google Trends, searches for ‘birth chart” and “astrology” hit five-year peaks in 2020. A new vanguard of astrologers emerged on social media, with Indian astrologers all over Facebook. TikTok alone introduced a generation of newcomers to the Zodiac.
“Vedic astrology has a wide following in Canada, owing largely to Indian immigrants and others attracted to the exotic and mystic practices,” explains Vinod Sodiyal, an Indian astrologer who brought in age-old practices and skills in astrology from India’s Himalayas to Calgary, Alberta.
“This art of prediction is actually a ‘science,’ as planets move along a designated trajectory, emit rays and influence living and non-living beings alike.”
‘I only study it’
Despite the shooting stars and the business powered up because of them, there are skeptics who do think the sky’s the limit.
According to Canseco’s research, a majority of Canadians question the concept of studying the movements and relative positions of celestial objects to make observations about human affairs and terrestrial events.
His research indicated that more than one-in-four Canadians (27 per cent) say they used to pay attention to astrology but don’t anymore; 54 per cent claim to have never paid attention to the concept, including 62 per cent of those aged 55 and over. More than half (55 per cent) were found to “probably” or “definitely” not believe in astrology.
Interestingly, despite Canseco’s involvement with surveys on astrology, he does not believe in the forecasts.
“Oh no!” he says. “I only study it.”
Jessica Lanyadoo, who got into astrology as a teenager, studied a course at Montreal’s Dawson College before beginning her practice.
“I don’t believe in astrology…I don’t believe in the Internet. I don’t believe in cars,” she says. “I use them because they work.”
For his part, Douglas Adams, the author of the famed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, tends to serve cosmic truths with a large helping of salt.
“In astrology, the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make,” he writes.
There are other caustic skeptics such as Edward Abbey, American author and essayist, who do not favour astrology. Abby wisecracks, “Who needs astrology? The wiseman gets by on fortune cookies,” in The Wisdom of Ed Abbey.
Mahatma Gandhi was not into astrology either: “I know nothing of the science of astrology, and I consider it to be a science, if it is a science, of doubtful value, to be severely left alone by those who have any faith in Providence.”
And who can read more into the stellar system than William Shakespeare himself, who proclaimed: “Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck.”
Alas, despite his caution, Canadians are still consulting the stars.
Gita Abraham is a journalist of 45-year standing and has worked in national dallies and magazines in New Delhi including Hindustan Times and India Today. For 15 years she was the Feature Editor of The City TAB in Bangalore. She was also a Professor of Journalism, at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai. Treading the thin line between fact and fiction, Gita has launched her debut novel “Daughter of the Blue Hills” early this year. She and her husband are snowbirds shuffling between Chennai and Ottawa. She has two daughters and two frisky grandsons who inhabit her world.