WEEKEND: IS IT ALL IN THE STARS?; Millions of People Need a Daily Fix of Astrology to Get Them through the Day, Turning Star-Gazing into a Hugely Profitable Industry. Chief Feature Writer Jason Beattie (a Typical Pisces) Tries to Figure It Out
Beattie, Jason, The Birmingham Post (England)
The best paid journalist in Britain is not the editor of The Sun, nor one of the leading columnists for the Daily Mail, but a softly-spoken man called Jonathan Cainer.
Mr Cainer is an astrologer.
Two weeks ago he was poached by the Daily Express for a sum rumoured to be around pounds 1 million.
He probably saw the pay cheque coming.
Cainer, a balding, 42 year-old man, reckons he will add 50,000 readers to the paper.
Even if he doesn't he is sitting on a mystic gold mine.
The profit from the phone lines is estimated to be pounds 500,000 a year, while his Internet operation, Cainer.com, is the UK's fifth most-popular website and has been valued at pounds 50 million.
At the beginning of the 21st century, a time when we are supposedly better educated, more informed and surrounded by the wonders of scientific achievement, we are still in thrall to the power of the horoscope.
Some 40 per cent of the population (53 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men) regularly consult their stars.
And according to an ICM poll 55 per cent of woman and 38 per cent of men said they found them "always, mostly or sometimes" accurate.
Newspapers, including The Birmingham Post, have been publishing horoscopes for years. There may be no scientific basis, about which more later, for these predictions but millions of people want to believe in them.
The reading of the stars underwent a renaissance in the late 19th century and has been, to use an astrological term, in the "ascendant" ever since.
Fifty years ago it was the preserve of red-top newspapers, a few weirdos in the outer reaches of the West Country and the charlatans who sat in brightly painted boxes on the end of the pier.
Now it is a multi-million pound business which commands its own section in book shops, has a professional society to regulate its practices and offers certificates for bona fide practitioners.
Astrologers are no longer catering for the bored housewives who want to know if their love life is on a downward path but are offering remunerative services to share dealers, blue-chip companies and even politicians.
On Wall Street many stock brokers hire specialist astrologers to predict the best time to buy and sell commodities (Venus is the sign of copper, when it is in the ascendant it's a good time to buy), many firms use astrologers to advise on recruitment choices (Pisceans couldn't sell a birth map at a New Age convention), Ronald and Nancy Reagan famously consulted the Californian astrologer Joan Quigley on policy matters.
How did it come to this?
How did a profession which flourished in the Dark Ages and has as much validity as alchemy come to be the touchstone of millions of people's lives in the Information Age?
Astrology can be dated back to the earliest literate civilisation in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) at around 2000 BC.
Just as today, the Mesopotamian astrologers believed the events on earth were represented (or dictated depending on the strength of your belief) by the positions and movements of the stars.
To create order out of the planetary chaos the Zodiac was created. The Zodiac is divided into 12 sections of 30 each and each of these divisions is named after a constellation situated within its limits in the second century BC. Try to imagine a see-through compact disc divided into 12 sections which when you hold it up to the night sky super-imposes a map on the heavens.
The Zodiac symbols were adopted by the Greeks from the Babylonians who then passed them on to other ancient civilisations.
Most Western astrology relies on the tropical Zodiac which divides the ecliptic (the Sun's annual path through the sky as seen from earth) into the same 12 sections beginning with the Aries Point - the Sun's position on the spring equinox.
Your horoscopes are based on the location of the planets at the time and date of your birth. …