Every so often, Astrology is presented with an opportunity to explain herself, and thus impart her wisdom to humankind. Such occasions, alas, usually occur when her system of symbolism is under attack, usually by people who have no knowledge of Astrology or base their dismissive notions on popular culture and misunderstandings instead of serious consideration.
In the last few days, I have received many alarmed e-mails regarding the recent Internet craze concerning the shattering "new discoveries" that the signs have shifted due to a wobble in the Earth's axis and that there is a new 13th sign called Ophiuchus.
Let me address some of these issues and assure you that your sign has not changed from whatever it was before 2011. If you thought you could upgrade to a "better" sign, you are out of luck.
- Astrology is based on the seasons and the relationships between the planets (called "aspects"), not what sign is located behind the sun when you were born.
- When Astrology was developed by the Babylonians, the constellation Aries happened to be located right behind the sign Aries during the Spring Equinox.
- Astrologers and Astronomers have known about the issues presented in the "Astrology-refuting hoax" for thousands of years and chose not to include a 13th constellation.
- Astrology is a system of symbols and metaphors designed to help us connect to the universe, just like the words and metaphors found in the various spiritual texts from around the world.
The signs of the Zodiac are merely symbols and metaphors that divide the year into 12 different and equal "seasons." This partition is based on the proportions of day and night experienced throughout the year. The first Zodiac sign, Aries, always begins on the first day of spring, when day and night are equal, and the amount of light will increase in succeeding days. Libra, on the other hand, always begins on the first day of fall, when the day and night are also equal, but after which the amount of light will decrease.
Astrology postulates that, regardless of what constellation occupies the Equinox, people born in the spring will exhibit characteristics such as high energy and optimism. They will be the kind of people who spring into action, the same way that nature buds into life after its long winter slumber.
A new study, published by Nature Neuroscience, found links between season of birth and personality. According to Professor Douglas McMahon, the study's author, "Our biological clocks measure the day's length and change our behavior according to the seasons." It is suggested that people born in the winter (e.g., Capricorns) are more at risk to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), schizophrenia and depression. In Astrology, similarly, Capricorn is associated with suffering, difficulties and pessimism.
Astrology was developed in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, as a cosmic clock, most likely to help early farmers track the seasons. The idea is simple: One should plant in spring, party in summer, harvest in fall and be careful with provisions in winter.
There is no real ram in the sky when Aries begins on March 21st. Wise ancient women and men chose a Ram to symbolize Aries because it represents the initiation of spring. When the refuters of Astrology claim that people born in Aries should be called Pisces, they are misunderstanding the symbolism behind the names. It's like saying New York City should be called "York" because it is now hundreds of years old.
There is nothing new about the 13th constellation or the shift in the signs. The ancient Greeks, who were the first to cast astrological "Natal Charts," were quite aware of these two issues. In fact, Claudius Ptolemy wrote extensively about the 13th sign and the procession of the equinox in the second century AD. There truly is nothing new under the sun.
Ophiuchus, the so-called 13th sign, was not adopted into Astrology because the sun barely touches the constellation during its path through the Zodiac. It also doesn't fit into the Babylonians' sexagesimal system that is based on 60 and 12 (the same system that gave us 60 minutes in an hour and two sets of 12 hours in a day).
With all due respect, most of the people who rebuke Astrology have little knowledge of its history. Intellectual giants like Johannes Kepler (considered by many to be the father of modern astronomy), Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Carl Jung, Benjamin Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton were all aware of these two anomalies in Astrology. They continued, however, to practice, study and develop astrological theories that resulted in amazing predictions and insights.
For centuries, astrologers have incorporated the Earth's wobble into their understanding of the connection between the heavenly bodies and life on Earth. Ever heard about "The Age of Aquarius"? The reason we have these ages and the reason they move backward (the Age of Aquarius follows the Age of Pisces) is due to the wobble of the Earth. Thus, to claim that astrologers had not known about this phenomenon or that they chose to ignore it is simply ridiculous.
Many people claim that Astrology has no scientific backing and therefore cannot provide "real" help to humanity. I was stunned to see that this assertion in The Christian Science Monitor, a news organization owned by a church. There is no scientific proof of the resurrection of Christ, and yet the teaching of Jesus can still inspire love and compassion. There is no archeological proof of the Exodus, and yet millions live and die by the teaching of Moses. There is no evidence to support Muhammad's nightly flight on a winged horse from Mecca to Jerusalem. However, the holiest shrine for Islam, the Dome of the Rock, was built to commemorate that event on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For hundreds of years, help and healing has been provided by systems that have no scientific proof. The power of belief is undeniable.
Handled in the right way, Astrology can help guide us to a better future. Over the last 15 years, I have seen Astrology prove herself again and again in remarkable ways to clients of all ages, races, nationalities and genders. I can only hope that she will do for you what she has done for me and thousands of others. In the words of Carl Jung, "Obviously Astrology has much to offer psychology, but what the latter can offer its elder sister is less evident."