Astrology has been around for thousands of years. Since the ancient civilisations of the Mayans, humans have been fascinated by the movements of stars and planets and developing complex methods in an attempt to decode the future.

Everyone knows that one person who’s obsessed with astrology, so I apologise if this brings back bad memories of conversations with that weird kid who thinks that they’re a witch or your one strange aunt who always burns incense to keep the bad spirits away.

First, let’s start with some definitions. Astrology can get complex with sun signs, Venus signs, and houses, so let’s just start with the basics. The “Big Three” in astrology refers to your sun sign (the generic star sign you look for when you see horoscopes anywhere), your moon sign, and your ascending sign.

You have to use a special online calculator to work out the latter two signs, using your birthday, birth time, and birth place. It’s impossible to even guess what you might be: the slightest mistake and everything could be off. I spent three months thinking I had a Cancer moon and Scorpio ascendant, when I really have a Scorpio moon and Gemini ascendant – crazy, right?

Anyway, your sun sign tends to define your basic personality traits. I’m a Leo sun, so people could characterise me as arrogant, self-important, and brash – which I am, but that’s beside the point… Your moon sign is more about your inner traits: things which you don’t display outwardly. If you find your sun sign doesn’t truly define you, check your moon sign.

And finally, your ascendant sign is the sign that was on the Eastern horizon at the time of your birth. It changes every couple of hours, so it’s best to know your birth-time with accuracy if you want to figure yours out. This describes the personality that you show to the world, so again, if your sun sign doesn’t seem to describe you, try working out your ascendant.

I won’t even go into minor signs and houses. Even I don’t understand that. That’s for the hardcore kids. If you want to work out your entire birth chart, there are countless sites out there that will work it out for you, and you can analyse it to your heart’s content. It’s fun to use it as an explanation for your awful behaviour. There’s a lot of Leo in my chart, so therefore it’s fine for me to act like an egotistical maniac with confidence issues.

As well as stars, astrology likes to take long hard looks at the planets and what they’re doing. When Mercury goes into retrograde – appearing to be moving backwards against its orbit – everyone seems to have an objectively bad time. You do insane things, like talk to your exes and cry about everything, and are irrationally angry.

How Mercury retrograde can affect you also depends on what sign it’s in at the time, so at what time of the year it occurs at. The most recent one was in Aries, so everything was even more spontaneous than usual, and the next is in Leo, so everything is going to be extra dramatic. You’ve been warned.

Things can go crazy when there are multiple planets in retrograde simultaneously. Right now, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto are in retrograde together, and will be for a long while, so if you feel off-the-wall obsessed, upset, angry, or stressed – or all these things – you can just blame the planets.

Honestly, blaming the planets for things that are going wrong can be so fun. It doesn’t even have to make any sense, just say, “Sorry, Mars just entered Aries, and I’m a Cancer with a Capricorn moon, so that means I can’t communicate well and I have to go home and listen to 80s synth pop on a loop until I have the energy to interact with people again.” And the best thing? People will believe it. I’ve witnessed people blame Mercury being in retrograde, their sign, their ex’s sign, their dog’s sign, their boss’ sign, and the moon, for absolutely everything in their life, and other people are so sympathetic! “Of course, Hun, I know exactly what you mean. My boss was a Pisces sun but a Gemini moon so he didn’t understand that I needed two weeks off because Venus was in Libra so it was the perfect time for me to take a spur of the moment holiday to Bali to find love!”

Alright, I might be exaggerating just a little bit, but it’s bananas what people blame the stars and planets for. I have friends who refuse to date people based on their star signs, and various signs have huge stereotypes surrounding them. My best friend avoids Aquarians like the plague, calling them “emotionally detached losers with a god complex”. Leos are generalised as vain, proud, and attention-seeking, and yes that might fit me perfectly, but it’s crazy to think that some people genuinely believe that for all Leos.

In all honesty, I have a healthy distrust of Virgos, considering my ex-boyfriend and my best friend from high school (who turned out to be a cow) were Virgos, and I think Cancers are cry-babies who need to have a long hard talk with themselves about what they want in life. But then again, people generalise and stereotype entire races, nationalities, and genders, so the signs don’t have it that bad.

In some extreme cases, people will ask for the birth date and the time and location of birth, for a potential partner, and make their decisions based on that. “His Lilith is in Sagittarius, and his ascendant is Libra, but I’m a Leo moon and a Taurus Jupiter, so it won’t work out because that means he won’t take me out on Wednesdays because that’s his alone time, and Wednesday is the perfect time for romance to happen because Venus is in Scorpio!”

This might be an odd idea, but I think it’s best to talk to a person to get a feel for their personality, rather than assuming everything about them because they were born in Grimsby in March when the stars were in random positions.

Don’t even get me started on horoscopes. Everyone loves to read them because, whatever they say, you can apply that to your life in some way, however vaguely. “Oh my god, so my horoscope today says that a missed connection is going to come back into my life because it’s Aries season and Venus is in Leo, so that obviously means that the cute girl I made eye contact with on the bus three weeks ago on Tuesday is going to reach out to me! I’ll start planning the wedding.”

Horoscopes are so wishy washy. What does “the power of the moon” even mean? And yet they are so addictive to read. When Cosmo puts new ones up every Monday on Snapchat, I’m immediately reading what’s going to happen to every Leo in the world. This week I’m “supporting beloved friends”, apparently. Like I don’t do that every week.

Astrology is so fun. Blaming all your problems on planets in retrograde in various signs? Justifying bad behaviour with your signs? Telling people that the stars are affecting you, so you can’t deal with anything right about now? Who wouldn’t find that vastly entertaining?

It’s probably best to take it all with a pinch of salt, though. Don’t live your life by what the stars are supposedly saying. Or else you’ll be disappointed when the romantic chemistry or financial luck don’t turn up every week. Especially, don’t refuse to know someone just because they happen to be a Scorpio, or something.

Actually, no… Scorpios are evil and nasty: I should know, as Scorpio’s my moon sign.