Is our future written in the stars?

A journey through the cultural backgrounds of fortune telling

It’s impossible not to see the fear on the woman’s face. Her eyes are wide open and tears are trickling down her cheeks. But why? With a bit of a weird feeling, I look around the place. I’m at a colourful market where hundreds of busy people bustle among the booths. However, in a dark corner, separated from the crowd stands the small booth, the desperate woman has just left. The entrance to the booth is covered with cloths and a whiff of smoke fills the air nearby. An antiquated sign reads the offer: A look into the future.

fortune_picture1__Bit of history

For centuries, this kind of knowledge has been a valuable commodity, which provides those who claim to have it with enormous powers. The most famous of the so-called seers is without doubt Nostradamus. Born in 1503, he not only predicted the fate of the French king Louis XVI and the reign of terror under Adolf Hitler – above that, some of his convinced supporters assert that Nostradamus also forecast the recent election of Donald Trump. But as remarkably accurate some of Nostradamus’ prophecies are, many historic predictions allow numerous interpretative approaches, presenting a perfect target for different groups of people.

While some of them are already discussing Doomsday, others are more interested in extending their wealth with the diverse business of fortune telling. Of course, those fortune-telling products no longer focus on powerful prophecies. Instead, most of them are based on astrological interpretations of celestial bodies, also known as horoscopes.

Trading with the future

Nowadays horoscopes not only feature in many lifestyle magazines; they also help many people make important decisions. But how can a large and diverse audience create individual connections with the horoscopes? The answer is quite simple: by leaving enough room for interpretations. This will ensure that readers are able to identify with their horoscope and are retrospectively convinced that it came true.

Looking at an out-to-date horoscope from January 2017 confirms this assumption. It may sound a bit weird, but the horoscope seems unbelievably expressive and meaningful, while at the same time also kind of trivial. Among other things, the horoscope encourages me to let go of my own mask to earn some mysterious gifts. What could that mean? I basically spent the whole of January studying for some important exams. Could good marks be the promised reward? But what is the secret of the cryptic mask? As of yet, unanswered questions abound and there are no limits to imagination. In a nutshell, this is exactly what horoscopes are all about. It doesn’t matter if a student like me, a successful career woman or a family man reads the horoscope – the horoscope offers something for everyone.

It’s within ones power

After all, there are lots of people who draw strength and motivation from horoscopes. However, it does become problematic when people completely adjust their lives to fortune telling, thereby giving negative predictions too great a hold on them. We all have a free will and are able to shape our own future. And as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.

Text & Picture: Solveig Paulsen

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