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Topic section: Astrology, alchemy and popular culture
TOPIC SECTION:
Astrology, alchemy and popular culture
There are two reasons why astrology is widely accepted. Most horoscopes (especially the ones in the popular press) are very vague a
Image: The astral cipher emblems of the signs
Everyone, even a confirmed sceptic, knows his or her star sign Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
nd contain several plausible events. If the reader remembers the horoscope at all, it will be the rare successful events that are recalled rather than the far more numerous failures. If you asked a group of Scorpians if they were investigators and intense (having made it fairly clear this is expected of Scorpians), you might be impressed if many agreed that they were intense investigators. However, you would get the same result if you asked a group of Librans in the same manner.

For many people, star signs represent these ge
Adam McLean's version of the eighth image;from the early 16th century alchemical manuscript
This is a contemporary version of an early 16th century image by the modern day alchemist, Adam McLean
Credit: © Adam McLean
neral character traits that, although derived from astrological classification, are really defined by the people who discuss them. The pleasure of reading our horoscopes does not imply a serious belief in the system (as used in newspapers) but rather the enjoyment of having a light-hearted moment with friends.
In alchemy, lack of success in making gold is always a result of an imperfect process rather than the i

The pleasure of reading our horoscopes does not imply a serious belief

nadequacy of the philosophy. Instead of abandoning the theory, the adept endeavours to carry out the process ever more perfectly. In a sense it is similar to a lottery. Failure to win the jackpot one week usually spurs the player to buy more tickets the next week rather than giving it up as pointless. Modern-day alchemists enjoy what they do, on a spiritual or practical plane, and the scientific validity of their activities is no more relevant than the strict academic accuracy of re-enacting English Civil War battles or recreating life in the Bronze Age. The general public encounter alchemy in novels such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke or even Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
 
 
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Topic section: The decline and revival of astrology and alchemy
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Belief in alchemy and astrology almost faded away during the Enlightenment. They were resurrected in the late nineteenth century in a new guise which reflected modern concerns  > more

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Topic section: Astrology and alchemy in modern society
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Astrology and alchemy exist in modern life as a part of our folklore and fun, and also as more serious explanations and metaphors  > more
 
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