All the astrologers I spoke with emphasized confounding factors as one key reason astrological prediction is never, ever 100 percent certain. “People have misconceptions that the astrologer is looking into a crystal ball and seeing the future perfectly depicted,” says Brennan, “but that’s not actually what astrology is.”
This is where prediction turns into many astrologers’ preferred future-oriented word: forecasting. Astrological forecasting tends to describe the future more thematically or archetypically than concretely, and the vast majority of astrological prediction today falls into this category. Forecasting has more room for varied possible outcomes and allows for human error within interpretation. Horoscopes work this way, as do year-ahead and planetary ingress forecasts, and it’s often exactly what happens inside of one-to-one consultations between astrologers and their clients.
As Sam Reynolds, an astrologer who started out as a skeptic and has served on the board for the international astrology organization ISAR, points out, even character analysis via the natal chart is essentially a form of thematic forecasting: “By virtue of looking at your character, [astrology] can bespeak what is likely to manifest, what we’re likely dealing with,” an extension of Heraclitus’s dictum that “character is destiny.” Character influences how we navigate the circumstances life throws at us. “Fate has two arms: one of them is yours,” he says. “Astrology is about learning how to work the arm that you can work.”
Working the workable arm of fate is what astrologer, teacher, and CUSP app cofounder Kirah Tabourn does for herself and for her clients. A planning-focused astrologer, Tabourn considers prediction to provide “more grounding in the present by having some idea of the patterning of the future,” including the precious gift of organizing one’s life. “[Astrological timing] helps people feel like there’s some structure, an order to things,” she says. “It helps people make decisions.”
If astrology can help with ascertaining “the right time” to make decisions, it follows that astrology can also help us with discerning “the wrong time,” too. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old adage goes, and astrology’s cyclicity is uniquely situated to provide forearming. “When we’re investigating historical and autobiographical astrological cycles, it’s important to see where the repetition happens,” says writer-astrologer Pallas Augustine. This can include cyclic reoccurrences of rhyming difficulties, such as mental or physical health relapses, tender topics that require deft compassion whenever they arise in client sessions. Astrological prediction, wielded gently and skillfully, can help to “spot the meaning and the movement [going forward] by looking to what is different,” Augustine continues.
However, knowing that people make choices based on astrology comes with an imperative to be as ethical as possible when translating celestial movements for clients. “Our clients and content consumers are often in a space of putting a lot of weight into what [astrologers] say,” adds Tabourn. “Being really mindful of that power dynamic is super important.”
The downside to the immense meaning-making potential of astrology? It renders the practice vulnerable to misuse by uncareful types with dubious commitment to honorable behavior. An astrologer more concerned with being right or being (in)famous than they are with being helpful runs the very real risk of chasing sensationalism at the expense of integrity. This results in people who use astrology as an excuse to be an ambulance chaser or to create viral, fear-mongering social media content. Astrologers without deliberate training in counseling skills or trauma-informed practice, even those with the very best intentions, run the risk of inadvertently distressing their clients rather than supporting them. Some professional astrological organizations attempt to address these issues through codes of ethics, but because there’s no governing body dictating who can and cannot call themselves an astrologer, such codes are limited in their capacity to reign in practitioners behaving irresponsibly. Additionally, those codes, by their very nature, cannot fully address ethical differences across cultures or generational divides.