(Since this is a post about astrology, I feel like it’s necessary for me to share my signs. My sun is in Scorpio, my moon is in Aries, and my ascendant is in Virgo.)

I can’t scroll through my social media outlets without seeing at least one friend or someone I follow posting about astrology. Most of these posts are by women – primarily women of color. I personally began growing interest in astrology a year ago during a time of intense transition in my life. I had moved across the country to a state I had only visited once to begin a Ph.D. program. I knew no one in Colorado when I moved here.

Soon thereafter, I learned about Jupiter’s impending move into Scorpio from a friend who follows astrology closely. This move was supposed to bring goodwill and prosperity to Scorpios in a variety of ways for the next year and a handful of months. I was going through a lot with all the changes happening in my life, and this news came as a welcome relief for the growing pains I was experiencing. I became intensely interested in what secrets could be learned, and intuition could be yielded through closer attention to the cosmos.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year reading about astrology and listening to astrology-related podcasts. While I’m no expert and get all my information about the stars second-hand, I try to clue my friends in on Mercury’s retrograde, eclipses, and moon phases. This connection with the universe helps me to feel grounded and gives me a sense of belonging beyond myself and the community around me. I’ve long believed that energies flow and connect us to one another, and astrology is a way for me to conceptualize that energy.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Someone in my graduate program once asked me why I was I was drawn to astrology. “It just seems like another form of a religion,” he told me. Being an atheist, then he had a difficult time buying into the information I passed along to him.

While I don’t consider astrology a “religion,” his comment made me think about my upbringing in the Southern Baptist church and why, now, I’m finding myself buying into another belief system.

I have a complicated relationship with religion based on my experience growing up. I found the church to be rife with contradiction and felt (even before my feminist “awakening”) that the things I learned about gender and sexuality were a double standard. As teenagers, girls were made to wear either one-piece bathing suits, tankinis, or two-pieces with a colored t-shirt over it. We must not tempt our “brothers in Christ,” but they could go shirtless. The burden of abstinence was on girls to maintain. Future husbands don’t want wives who have “given it up,” who are “stained” or who are “used like a chewed up piece of gum.”

I saw popularity contests in the church I went to that were based on socio-economic status. It felt like a competition to see who wore the cutest clothes, had the nicest cars, and hosted the most Southern parties on their patio by the pool. And when I stopped going to church regularly at age 15 due to my work schedule, I felt judged. Some told me I should demand a new work schedule or work somewhere that respects the Sabbath.

So when astrology was compared to religion, it caused me to really reflect on what I was getting involved in and why. There are certainly some similarities—a belief in a universal power beyond the self-being a primary one. But I see them very differently.

It is true that I perhaps use astrology to fulfill a similar role religion once played in my life. I feel a deep connection to others, to the earth, and to the universe through astrology. It helps me to understand the things that happen in society and in my own life. This connection feels empowering, as though I can harness the energy transferred throughout the universe to manifest the things I need in my life.

Understanding moon phases, for instance, gives me the ability to pause at various times in the month to reflect on the positive and negative aspects of my life and to evaluate the decisions I’ve made and the most powerful directions to take. Astrology has made me more mindful of myself and others and helps me to act in ways that contribute to the greater social good.

I mentioned earlier that the majority of people I see posting about or following astrology are women. The astrologers I follow are predominantly women of color. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that astrology attracts those who have most often been left out of Western religion as we know it today. In fact, I think that’s one thing that draws me to astrology.

Astrology, as I understand it is inherently matriarchal and queer and led by people of color. It values the energies of the oppressed in ways Christianity never could for me. In this way, I think growing up Southern Baptist led me to astrology. More specifically, growing up Southern Baptist with a supreme, vengeful, jealous patriarchal figurehead has led me to now value my connection to a Universe moved by love, passion, and mutual care. The latter of these are feminized qualities devalued in most patriarchal Western societies. But this is where I am learning to find my strength and my direction.

My newfound connection to astrology led me to get a tattoo by an amazing hand-poke tattoo artist in Seattle this year. It’s of moon phases—I feel particularly connected to the moon. I posted a photo of the tattoo on my Instagram account with the following poem:

the moon—

the same force

that pulls the ocean’s tide

moves you too.

For me, the poem encapsulates the ways in which, as opposed to my participation in the Southern Baptist church that often left me feeling isolated, alone, and judged, astrology has helped me to find inner peace and a connection with energies much larger than myself. Even more so, through astrology, I have found greater strength in the feminine and feminized qualities of myself and others.