'I spent a month doing exactly what my horoscope told me to'

Lauren Bravo
Photo credit: Photographs Hanina Pinnick | Art Ana Davila - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Photo credit: Photographs Hanina Pinnick | Art Ana Davila - Getty Images

Tarot cards on the table. I haven’t believed in astrology since I was 18. I read a prediction that told me I’d fail my A-levels. I didn’t. It’s been 14 years since then, and despite cursing the stars every time I stub my toe or lose a necklace, I don’t pay that much attention to my horoscope at all.

Today this makes me pretty unfashionable. My generation is stargazing like there’s no tomorrow (and sometimes, looking at the news, it feels like there isn’t). Not since the ’70s has alternative spirituality been so cool, or so widely embraced. Versace, Gucci and Prada have all used zodiac motifs in recent collections, boutiques selling crystals and “cleansing” sage bundles have become the new hipster plant shops, and we can now advertise our Sagittarius rising status on everything from coasters to cushions. Membership of the Association For Young Astrologers doubled between 2018 and 2019, and the “psychic services” industry – which includes astrology, palmistry, mediumship and tarot – is reportedly worth more than $2 billion a year in the US alone. Who could have predicted that? (Well… them? Maybe?)

Photo credit: Ana Davila - Getty Images

Astrology has also left the confines of incense-smoke-filled rooms and is now available to us in our pockets 24/7. It’s on Instagram with Netflix-based zodiac analogies, and lolsy posts throwing affectionate shade at each sign (yep, we’re guilty as charged @cosmopolitanuk). The US’s top 10 astrology apps saw a 64.7% rise in revenue between 2018 and 2019. Horoscope app Co-Star has over five million registered users, and dishes out modern mysticism based on data from NASA, with a side of 21st-century snark. “Don’t be a dick,” reads one notification. Can’t argue with that.

It might feel like the current verve for cosmic intervention was cooked up in an Instagram lab, but humans have been using the stars and planets to divine meaning in times of turmoil for around 4,000 years. The first newspaper horoscope was printed in 1930 in the aftermath of the Wall Street stock-market crash. There are many theories surrounding the current boom, from the decline of organised religion and increasing eco-anxiety to the chaotic political landscape and whatever’s going on with Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina, but astrologer Francesca Lisette attributes the trend to (what else?) the planets themselves.

“Millennials born between 1983 and 1995 have Pluto in Scorpio. Scorpio is closely connected with the occult, forbidden knowledge and transformation,” Lisette tells me. “Gen Z’s [those aged roughly eight to 22] continuation of this interest is largely connected to Neptune’s transit through Aquarius – a sign oriented towards technology, the future and astrology itself – alongside Pluto going into Sagittarius, the sign of the spiritual seeker.” And I thought astrologers spoke in riddles…

But it’s time to put my scepticism to one side – in order to find out why my friends are turning to the stars for advice instead of me (and my infinite wisdom). I’m going to follow their lead. For one month I will do exactly what my horoscope tells me to. Can it help me make sense of what’s going on in the world? Or, as my boyfriend so helpfully thinks, will it “just be another thing on my phone to become obsessed with”?


The current queen of astrology is undoubtedly Susan Miller. Over 17 million flock to her website each month to see what the planets have in store for them. Pharrell Williams and Alexa Chung are fans, and while I can’t consult her on what house to buy, as Cameron Diaz (allegedly) did, I can pay $4.99 a month for daily horoscopes from her. Miller, alongside the apps (Co-Star, Sanctuary, The Pattern and TimePassages), quickly becomes a bigger pull than Instagram. I find myself reaching instinctively for my phone to check my horoscopes each morning, relishing the little fizz of dopamine as I open each one.

“Try something new!” says Sanctuary, so I put on a jazzy hat. “This is a good time to catch up on letters or emails, and connect with others socially,” says TimePassages, which is the friendly push I need to zero my inbox and make long-overdue dinner plans.

There’s plenty of wafty cliché and woo-woo. Straight-talking Sanctuary soon becomes my favourite – not just because it’s the only app to wish me a happy birthday (come on, guys, you have that information), but because while the others are forever telling me to “harness my purpose” and “connect with deeper truths”, Sanctuary tells me to “get cosy in a comfy chair under a warm blanket”. I mean, sure.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Sometimes the readings are almost comically inaccurate – Miller predicts “a financial boost from somewhere unexpected, such as rediscovering money you forgot you saved” (OK, boomer) the day before I find out a client has gone bust without paying me. But more often, they’re eerily perceptive. When I’m agonising over self-promotion for a work project, Co-Star says, “The key is not to show off. Let your actions spread the word about how wonderful you are.” I delete my carefully edited humblebrag and post a photo of my instant noodles.

Of course, this could be the Barnum Effect – a psychological phenomenon whereby people identify strongly with descriptions that are generic enough to apply to a wide range of people. There’s a modern obsession with self-taxonomising, which explains our generation’s near-pathological addiction to “Which pizza topping are you?”-type quizzes and, more seriously, DNA tests for everything from sports performance to future mortality. It’s why astrology and memes go so well together – the “It’s me!” moment is a potent motivator in a world where lots of people struggle to feel seen.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

“Astrology can provide a certain lens and a mirror for us to understand who we are,” explains clinical psychologist Dr Perpetua Neo, who specialises in coaching high performers to reach their potential. But while no scientific proof for horoscopes has ever been established, she thinks they can be a useful coping mechanism. “Being told that some things are just inevitable can actually give them meaning, and help you to transcend [them].”

Writer Daisy Buchanan “hit astrology hard” when a career crisis struck at the end of her twenties – the notorious period of “Saturn return”. “I was fascinated by the idea,” she says. “I felt so desperately insecure, addicted to ‘success’ in the sense that I truly believed there was one achievement between me and peace, and I was caning every horoscope I could find.” While the habit was “very comforting” for a time, Daisy says she ultimately realised she wanted to make things happen for herself without waiting for planetary permission. “I still love horoscopes, but I no longer feel as needy and desperate about them,” she says. “I’m not waiting for the universe to validate or punish me.”

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Dr Neo warns that, like anything, astrology can be dangerous if we give it too much power. “When some people are overly dependent on horoscopes, they can start to live life in a very anxious way,” she says. “We have to ask ourselves, is this helping us? Is this giving us a framework for living our life and a source of wisdom, or is it becoming a source of handicap and a crutch?”

There’s a danger that doomy horoscopes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One astrology-loving friend of mine had to delete Co-Star after she realised it was making her anxious. “It was constantly saying I’d have trouble at work or at home, and that put me in a negative mood, so I binned it.” Then there’s “zodiac-shaming” – the very real problem of discriminating against potential dates, housemates or even employees on the basis of their sign, for which there’s obviously no excuse. Even for Capricorns.


I’m an Aquarius, which – I’m told – makes me creative, free-spirited and revolutionary. Even on days when I’m sitting at home watching Love Is Blind like everyone else. It begins to feel like yet another pressure I’m failing to live up to. Should I go to more protests? Get something pierced? How can I be my best Aquarian self? There are frustratingly few details.

But, in a way, that’s the strength of modern horoscopes – less focus on self-improvement, more on self-care. “Trust yourself”, they urge, or “check your perfectionist tendencies”. Often they feel less like divine instruction and more like a gentle pep talk from a friend. One I really listen to.

Photo credit: Photographs Hanina Pinnick | Art Ana Davila - Getty Images

Kerry Ward, Cosmopolitan’s own tarotscope writer, says it’s common for women my age to use astrology as an impartial “second opinion” to validate our choices. “People want to live perfect, idealised lives,” she says. “As adulthood lands, decisions and responsibility come with a heavy burden of pressure and expectation. Things feel irreversible, that pressure mounts and every step feels either catastrophic or ideal. There’s less patience or willingness to experiment, see where something leads.”

So perhaps that explains the current boom? Not an expansion of our minds, but the opposite: perfection anxiety. We’re so afraid of making the wrong decision, accidentally derailing our own happiness through one clumsy misstep. It’s the Fleabag speech that spoke to our very soul – but instead of a priest, we’re kneeling before the solar system, asking: will anybody please tell us what to do?

Because, like most people my age, I have a lot of questions that feel too big to answer on my own. Is my career stagnating? Should I get married or have a baby? Or both? Or neither?

I often feel like I’m sleepwalking through life, letting things happen to me rather than going after what I really want. I don’t know what I want from my future – but do the planets?


Photo credit: Hearst Owned

I decide guidance through a screen isn’t enough; I need IRL help. I seek out Daliah Roth, AKA The Highgate Astrologer, who, with her black turtleneck, no-BS style and business background (she has an MBA, and ran a fashion shop in Berlin before studying at the world-renowned Faculty of Astrological Studies), couldn’t be further from the Professor Trelawney-style image of a spooky soothsayer.

“We do not give advice. That is the number one thing you learn as an astrologer,” she says. “I think it’s very, very important that people don’t rely on astrology to make their decisions for them.” Oh.

She’s not a psychic, she insists, and definitely not a witch. Instead she sees her job as more aligned with that of a psychotherapist – to remain neutral, listen, ask the right questions, and give the client space to reach their own conclusions.

Photo credit: Ana Davila - Getty Images

But while advice is off the table, it’s an illuminating session. Reading my birth chart, which pinpoints the locations of the planets at the precise moment I was born, Daliah tells me that career independence is important to me, but that I crave the security of a group dynamic – both true. She notes a transit to do with style, creativity and public perception, the dates of which perfectly align with the period I’ve spent writing and promoting my last book (about fashion). And she tells me that a transformation in my fifth house over the next two years suggests an increase in responsibility and long-term commitments, while my sun in Aquarius suggests that children will be a source of great joy in my life. It’s not enough to make me rush out and have my IUD removed, but it’s reassuring; like putting on a new pair of glasses and seeing the fuzzy outline of my desires suddenly pull into focus.

Can horoscopes solve my problems? No. Just like an agony aunt or a long coffee with a friend, astrology doesn’t have iron-clad answers – but taken with a pinch of salt, it can be a source of comfort, motivation and good old-fashioned common sense. After all, there’s still a human behind every horoscope. As Kerry Ward points out: “Anything that gets us talking and thinking consciously about our character development and our choices in life is a good thing, surely?”

And while I’m not a full believer, it’s fair to say I’m now… cosmically curious. Especially towards the end of my starstruck month, when the necklace I lost turns up, buried in the pocket of a rucksack. Here’s the spooky part: it’s a zodiac medallion, which I’d barely noticed when I bought it, etched with the Aquarian symbol. It feels like an important message, somehow. But then I suppose an Aquarius would say that.

Photographs Hanina Pinnick

Further credits/opening spread: top, dollskill.com. skirt, H&M. necklace and ring, astley clarkE. other jewellery, lauren’s own. shoes, dune london. balloons, Amazon and PartyPieces.co.uk. this spread: dress, mary benson. jewellery, lauren’s ownhair and make-up jolanda coetzer at lha represents, using bareminerals and nailberry. styling lottie franklin. prop styling jemima hetherington. illustrations jessica lockett. top, H&M. jeans, levi’s. “aquarius” necklace, prya.co.uk. necklace with pendant, astley clarke. earrings, daisy london

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