Thanks to technology, an age-old practice is in ascendance once more.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Thanks to technology, an age-old practice is in ascendance once more.

Whether or not you believe that your personality is determined by how celestial bodies were positioned when you were born, one thing’s for sure: Western astrology is big business these days. Recently, popular astrology apps Sanctuary and Co-Star made the news after raising millions in funding.

The numbers are compelling: Co-Star, for instance, has 6.5 million registered users. Last year, in the US alone, US$2.2 billion (S$2.99 billion) was spent on “mystical services”, according to research firm Ibisworld. Where astrology was once limited to checking out your horoscope in a magazine to see what the cosmos had in store for your star sign, the new-generation astrology apps go a lot further, fuelled by technology.

Described as “Uber for astrological readings” in The New York Times, Sanctuary employs some 30 astrologers, who provide on-demand consultations; while Co-Star uses artificial intelligence as well as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) data to track star movements, which enables it to provide users with astrological birth charts that go beyond the 12 well-known zodiac signs.

With these apps’ stylishly lo-fi graphics and a tone that ranges from smart-mouthed (Co-Star) to bubbly (Sanctuary), it’s easy to dismiss the resurgence of astrology as yet another preoccupation for the millennial plugged-in generation. Not so, says 34-year-old local astrologer May Sim. An English Literature graduate who also holds a diploma from the International Academy of Astrology in the US, Sim started her consultancy and school Selfstrology in 2011.

She shares: “I have clients as young as nine and as old as 74. Many people assume astrology attracts women in less technical professions, but my client and student database has a slight male majority. Most of them are professionals, including engineers, marketers and business owners.” Dismissing notions that astrology is mostly “a fortune-telling tool”, Sim says: “Modern Western astrologers are primarily concerned with its use for personal development and coaching.” Viewed that way, the sky certainly seems the limit – for this industry, at least.