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Which Skin Actives products you should buy based on your zodiac sign. Answer: forget about the Zodiac.

Wouldn’t you like to know what will happen tomorrow? I wouldn’t. I prefer to believe that what will happen tomorrow will depend on what I do. But if you were a King trying to decide whether to go to war against the enemy, you may feel safer if your personal seer told you that you would triumph (never mind that the seer couldn’t see that tomorrow, he would slip on a wet floor and break his leg). Another problem with this system is that the prophet may lose his head if he had the bad idea of predicting defeat.

I love the movie Stardust, where the future is foretold using rune stones and where another diviner loses his head for cheating. Divination (from Latin divinare ‘to foresee, prophesy, foretell, predict) was done long ago by people looking at the stars. 

Constellations are a group of stars that remind us of something familiar, like an object or an animal. Different civilizations came up with different constellations.  “Modern” Western astrology was inherited from the Romans, who received it from the Greeks, which combined the Babylonian and the Minoan systems.

What’s the Zodiac? In astronomy, the zodiac defines a belt of space extending 8° or 9° in celestial latitude to the north and south of the ecliptic, where the orbits of the Moon and the principal planets remain. The zodiac is narrow in angular terms because most of the Sun’s planets have orbits that have only a slight inclination to the Earth’s orbital plane. A navigator could determine his latitude (north-south position) by measuring the angle between the horizon and a selected celestial body.

The Hebrew Bible may reflect knowledge of the Babylonian zodiac, and Jews were among the astronomers and astrologers (practically synonymous at that time) in Europe. In 1494, the king of Portugal, Manuel I, wondering whether a sea journey to India was feasible, summoned the Jewish astrologer Abraham Zacuto to the court. The king asked for the astrologer’s advice on whether it was possible to accomplish such a maritime feat. Zacuto told the king that not only would the enterprise be successful because he was under a powerful and beneficial planetary influence. He was right, but unfortunately, Zacuto could not foresee that the King would expulse the Jews from Portugal shortly after, in 1496, probably to appropriate their property, just as the Kings of Spain had done in 1492.

Figure. The mosaic depicting the Zodiac in the Beit Alpha synagogue (6th Century AD, Guilboa mountains, Israel).

Western astrology is a form of divination based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment, such as a person’s birth as well as location (since time zones may or may not affect a person’s birth chart), in which various cosmic bodies are said to have an influence. Astrology in Western popular culture is often reduced to sun sign astrology, which considers only the individual’s date of birth (i.e., the “position of the Sun” at that date). Astrology is a pseudoscience and has consistently failed experimental and theoretical verification.

Astrology was considered a respectable academic and scientific field before the Enlightenment (18th century), but modern research has found no consistent empirical basis and certainly no predictive capacity. Still, the signs are pretty, and I love how they look in my old Zodiac bracelet.

Figure: a bracelet made with silver coins depicting the signs of the Zodiac.

In short, don’t look at the sky for answers to your problems. Or to choose your skincare products. Look at your skin, touch it and decide what you need. Neither the Zodiac not rune stones will help you choose products that will help your skin.