THE BLOG
01/19/2011 09:24 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Alleged Zodiac 'Shift' Is Old News

It's not so easy to find an astrologer when you need one. News that our zodiac signs may have changed hit the Web like a supernova, sparked by comments from astronomer -- not astrologer, it should be noted -- Parke Kunkle. Based on what he said, it sounded like we had been reading the stars wrong for something like thousands of years! In other words, this balanced Libra has been a Virgo all along. Well, that might explain some things (or maybe not). Regardless, I was having a identity crisis of interstellar proportions and needed answers fast.

I e-mailed a friend who offers astrological readings, but she's notoriously shy and wouldn't agree to be quoted. I even put out a call on my Rev. Wes Facebook page, to no avail. I wanted to know if this would change how astrologers offer readings. I confess to knowing only a little about astrology, just enough to understand that us Libras are supposed to be diplomatic and balanced, and I do read my horoscope almost every day out of curiosity. Sometimes it seems insightful, and others times not so much. My skepticism stems from my teen years, which took place back in the 70s and early 80s when astrology was, like, groovy, my man (or at least I thought it was). Anyway, I clearly recall checking my horoscope at around age 14. It was a reading for the entire month of September, in which I was born, and it said that near the end of that month, I would have some wild sexual experience. You can imagine how this was burned into my then-14-year-old psyche. Unfortunately, that month came and went without any sexual experience whatsoever, much to my great disappointment.

Despite this one little blip, I've always thought I embodied the Libra sign pretty well, and my curiosity always won out over skepticism. Still, this news that I might actually be another sign was traumatizing, as I'm sure it was for many others who more closely follow their horoscopes than I do. Back to this Kunkle guy -- should we even listen to him? I mean, asking an astronomer about astrology is like asking an atheist to add you to their prayer list. Yeah, good luck with that. Since I couldn't find an astrologer, I naturally went to the Web -- and it turns out, this "news" isn't so newsy after all.

Kunkle discussed "precession," a term I knew a little about from a book I finished reading just this week, called "The New Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars." As I understand it, our Earth wobbles on its axis, and that wobble causes slight movements that change where the constellations are seen relative to our position on the ground. For example, I already knew that the star we consider the "North Star" -- Polaris, located at one end of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) -- hasn't always been seen in that spot. Thousands of years earlier, the "North Star" was Thuban, in the nearby constellation Draco.

What I didn't know, however, is that Western astrology really doesn't go by the exact position of the constellations. According to one author, our horoscope (and yes, there are different varieties!) is based on the position of our Sun at the first day of spring. So how does that help? All you need to know is that nothing has changed; I'm still a Libra, and none of us has to learn how to pronounce Kunkle's alleged 13th sign, Ophiuchus.

Whew -- so this "redistricting" of the zodiac is really nothing to stress about. But if it teaches us anything, it's that we need to know more about how the stars, our home planet Earth and the Sun work. That's one thing I've been attempting for the last couple of years -- reading, stargazing, trips to the local observatory -- so Kunkle is wrong when he says that those of us who read horoscopes don't even look at the real stars. He also says that the stars have "no influence" over our personalities or lives. Who knows, especially given this Vanderbilt University study that showed that the position of the planets did affect the behavior and brains of mice? I just love to prove uppity scientists wrong with the help of other scientists!

But lest you get too comfortable, remember that our Earth is as shaky as a college student on an all-night bender. Not only does it wobble and frustrate astrologers, but it also messes with airline pilots and shuts down airports thanks to the shifting magnetic poles! My stars, I guess one day we'll wake up and Australia will no longer be "Down Under." With all this wobbling and shifting and spinning, thank goodness we have gravity to keep us grounded -- at least for now!

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