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Please, Stop Taking Horoscope Advice From TikTok

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‘Well that was short-lived,’ Joshua Pingley, a TikTok user who goes by the name of @spiritualweatherman, says in one of his most recent videos. ‘These are the zodiac signs likely to be the most impacted by this year’s annual Pluto retrograde. I hope you enjoyed your one week of retrograde-free bliss because that was the last retrograde free time of 2024.’

Pingley is a content creator who has amassed a following of almost 741,000 on the video-sharing app. His USP? Videos in which he speaks at pace and length about subjects pertaining to the zodiac, the most popular of which has been viewed almost 10 million times. Pingley recently said in an interview that he was inspired to learn more about astrology in the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic after watching a now-viral video which asserted that ‘every well-known serial killer was one of four zodiac signs: virgo, a pisces, a gemini, or a sagittarius.’ A self-confessed ‘pop culture enthusiast’, Pingley also creates ‘unfiltered entertainment’ content for another TikTok account he runs, @yourbestfriendjoshua, which has more than 500,000 followers.

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Pingley’s far from alone; TikTok has spawned a stable of astrologers, spiritual guides and healers who compete for the attention of the app’s users with videos that appear to have become increasingly salacious. Under the #Astrology, there are videos telling users what the state of their health is based on their horoscopes, while others inform people about how many children they will have, according to their zodiac. In an unmonitored industry that relies on the perceived push and pull of the Universe, misinformation has the ability to metastasise. ‘The problem with Aries,’ Pingley says in one of his videos. ‘Is that they’re literal f***ing babies parading around as adults. Temper tantrums, daily. Emotional depth, lacking. Impulse control, non-existent.’

The more scared you are, the more likely you are to buy a reading

Rani Khalon is a 30-year-old Vedic astrologer who splits her time between the UK and Punjab. It was as a byproduct of her Punjabi upbringing that Khalon, who goes by the TikTok handle of @carefreebrowngirl, learned about astrology, which she says is taught within families in her culture. She posted her first video proffering zodiac advice in April 2021 and now has just shy of 100,000 followers on the app. In the intervening years, it’s been the proliferation of ‘white people cosplaying as astrologer stereotypes’ that has fueled her to grow her community on TikTok in an attempt to correct the record. ‘This is spiritual exploitation,’ Khalon tells ELLE UK of the rise of the rise of so-called ‘horoscope experts’. ‘It goes back to the fact that creating this content is just a consumer project to these people. The reason they’re going to tell you really, really harmful stuff is to make you purchase healing from them. The more scared you are, the more likely you are to buy a reading to try and find answers.’

The deluge of zodiac and horoscope TikTok content – much of which is confused at best, dangerous at worst – has also diluted astrological advice itself, believes London-based astrologer, Francesca Oddie, who has been a practicing spiritual guide since 2014. ‘What we’re seeing with astrology now is really the idea of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing,’ she tells ELLE UK. ‘The same way that the media has to compete for people’s attention with increasingly salacious headlines and “juicier” claims, the people who present themselves more dramatically on the internet get more views. And if you want to grow as a content creator, that’s how you do it.’

The way you handle difficult conversations in astrology is important

In increasingly splintered political, economic and social times, Oddie, who has noticed a spike in demand for her services since the pandemic, nods to the fact that people may be relying on horoscope-related content now more so than ever before. The field is believed to have surged in popularity since the pandemic because of the mental health crisis it propelled. Research has found that people are more likely to be drawn to divinatory practices in times of tumult and uncertainty. According to Google Trends, in the UK alone searches for ‘daily horoscopes’ have spiked by 190% over the last year as people have increasingly sought advice to steady their shattered nerves.

‘The way you handle difficult conversations in astrology is important. If I’m doing a reading, and I know there’s going to be some very deep experiences in their chart, I will just gently tell them that there’s a potential interpretation that shows that they may have some negative experiences around romance and intimacy,’ Khalon says. ‘I’ll ask them whether they want to explore that or skip over it, and that strikes a chord with people because they understand that they haven’t been violated or made to feel unsafe.’

The lack of formal training and the conflation of social media followers with a person’s astrological abilities has only fuelled the problem, believes Wendy Stacey, principal of the International Mayo School of Astrology and tutor for the London School of Astrology. ‘There’s a lot of rubbish out there and it’s pretty much because astrology is not a regulated industry. It’s not mainstream, so while there are 15 educational institutes that offer thorough astrological training and adhere to certain procedures, anybody can claim to be an astrologer without having done any form of training. The good thing about the internet is that people have more access to astrology but the other side of that is the rubbish that untrained people are putting out there.’

Astrology is not there to make you feel scared about trusting your gut

Khalon’s mission, she claims, is to ‘decolonise’ what has essentially become something that ‘isn’t actually about astrology, but rather scaring people with all of these theatrics.’

‘Astrology is not there to tell you your personality. Astrology is not there to make you feel scared about trusting your gut,’ she concedes. ‘You don’t need to pay somebody in order to trust your intuition and you cannot purchase healing. If it has made you scared, it’s probably not real.’

Oddie warns that discernment is needed when consuming astrological advice from content creators online. ‘People who are good at making content aren’t always the most accurate,’ she says. ‘The same way that you wouldn’t always believe everything a newspaper or magazine says, that’s what people need to remember with some online astrologers. Ask yourself, “Are they qualified?” It’s the same with anything. There are cowboys in every world, you’ve just got to fish them out.’


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