Who writes the horoscopes?
January 27, 2011 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Do magazines and newspapers hire actual astrologers to write their horoscopes, or do they just make them up?

I don't really buy into astrology at all, but I was just curious.
posted by jnaps to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
They make them up at least some of the time; I know three people who write horoscopes for small/alt publications, and none of them are astrologists or even particularly interested in astrology; rather, they're all humor writers.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:02 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

A lot of newspapers receive them through a syndication outlet.
posted by kerning at 9:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a good friend who, as a side job, writes horoscopes for several well-known websites and magazines. She has no training in astrology, nor does she really believe in it, it's just a way to make some money on the side and flex her creative writing talent.
posted by bizwank at 9:05 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, in order to address your question, I guess I'd have to wonder what the difference is between an "actual astrologer" and a person who just makes horoscopes up... Is there any?
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:09 PM on January 27, 2011 [17 favorites]

As I understand, sun signs aren't even that complete a picture of an astrological profile. My money is on syndicated or staff writers making up stuff that sounds like it could apply to anyone. One step to the left of fortune cookies.
posted by Gilbert at 9:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess I'd have to wonder what the difference is between an "actual astrologer" and a person who just makes horoscopes up... Is there any?

"Actual Astrologers" have techniques that they use to arrive at their predictions. There's a recognized way of drawing up a chart using certain space and time variables, and then interpreting said chart. It's highly speculative and likely no more accurate than just making shit up, but yeah, there is an art to it.

Someone who is a humor writer or casual freelancer looking to pick up a few bucks on the side likely just makes up whatever strikes their fancy.

The end product isn't necessarily any different, but there is a difference in approaches.
posted by Sara C. at 9:13 PM on January 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

In Australia some newspapers and magazines hire actual astrologers. Mystic Medusa used to (maybe still does?) write for the Australian, while the Herald Sun uses Yasmin Boland and the Daily Telegraph uses Jonathon Cainer. All consider themselves serious astrologers as their websites indicate.
posted by skauskas at 9:32 PM on January 27, 2011

FWIW, Indian astrologers have an exhaustive literature on this subject, but whether it is made up or not, I don't know. I do know, though, that once a chart is drawn up a certain way, the interpretation remains more or less consistent across the same method used. An example (no disrespect to your reading skills, but sometimes I am unable to write very coherently for others): If A drew up a chart and interpreted for you and you took an identical chart to him 5 years later, the interpretation would match 95%.
posted by theobserver at 10:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Surely that saying was meant to be:

What do you get when you add an ounce of antifreeze to a barrel full of wine? Answer: French wine.

Joking aside, I understand that Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology (the subject of my second ever post here) is based on some kind of star-analysis methodology.

I'd call it wisdom based off wisdom based off bullshit, where the bullshit is the starry stuff, and the intermediate wisdom is all the disparate sources used to filter the starry stuff in a way that it suggests positive ways to move forward with one's life - as opposed to the banal & falsifiable predictions about the week's events that you normally get from newspaper & magazine horoscopes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:48 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

kerning has the answer. Those astrology/horoscope columns in your paper are sold to the paper by a national distribution syndicate. It's the same way the comics get into your paper. Actually, it's how anything that isn't local news or opinion gets into your paper.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:16 AM on January 28, 2011

And, they aren't necessarily the work of any "legitimate" astrologer...as far as being an astrologer can be legitimized. It's quite often just the work of a random database of pithy declarations.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:18 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I worked for an astrologer for a bit (admin work), and as well as producing horoscopes for individuals, he produced copy for magazines and newspapers. The copy was edited slightly for different publications. FWIW he seemed to really believe in what he was doing, to the point that he would explain stuff in my or his friends' personal lives with references to it. I'm not into astrology at all, and found it amusing when he explained that he had to let me go due to a downturn in business; as a friend asked me, "So he didn't see that one written in the stars then?"
posted by kumonoi at 4:40 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I managed syndicated material for a small daily for a while; we bought horoscopes from a syndicate. They're usually written by sort-of soap opera looking women with soap-opera-ish names, who are real people (they go to conventions and things), but I couldn't tell you if they're "real" astrologers. They have some sort of backstory about their deep fascination with astrology that comes in the "about the author" info and some creative writing talent that lets them write more or less the same thing over and over and over. They may get into the syndicate business by having some sort of minor Hollywood notoriety they can use in their marketing ("casts horoscopes for B-list actress! predicted her big break!"). They write at least three weeks ahead; some syndicates demand more. I know this because ours died and it took over a month before her columns ran out. We got them in week-long batches.

And to answer the question you didn't ask, yes, people do call the newspaper to complain if they think their horoscope is "wrong" (whatever that means). But not NEARLY as much as they call if you manage to somehow fuck up the crossword. That brings down the wrath of multitudes on your head.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:08 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

In 1997, my high school journalism class went on a field trip to the Los Angeles Times office.

We visited one room where they were working on the next day's comic strip page. Several of the comics had been pasted down already, but there were still a few empty spots. Our tour guide pointed to the big blank section on the bottom of the page and asked if we knew what gets printed there. Most of us replied, "The horoscopes."

The tour guide said, "Yeah I'm sure we have an intern making it up right now."

Most of the girls in my class were completely shocked and went "NOOOOO!!!"

Tour guide responds, "You guys know there's a reason we print it on the comic strip page, right?"
posted by fac21 at 9:09 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

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