Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Astrology is geocentric?

When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars; then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.
-lyrics from "Aquarius" by the 5th dimension
While looking at a list of the top 40 news stories shared in Facebook this year, I noticed that three of the 40 were about the Zodiac signs changing (or not changing). I recall hearing something about the signs being a month off but didn't pay much attention at the time since I do not believe in Astrology. But many Americans do.

The CNN story, "No, your zodiac sign hasn't changed" (#3 on the Facebook list) nicely explains the confusion that occurred. On Jan. 10, 2011 the  Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article in which a Minneapolis astronomer affirmed that due to a wobble in the earth's axis over thousands years, the sun has shifted one whole month in the zodiac. So when the astrology page say it's the "month" of Leo, the Sun is really in Cancer. Some astrology believers refused to accept this,
“I’ve known myself to be a Sagittarius, I believe, since I was born. So to come up now with some new sign? It’s unacceptable!”
The same astronomer also pointed out that there is a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus (Ooh-FEE-yew-kus), the Serpent Bearer, between Scorpio and Sagittarius. The sun in only in Scorpio for 1 week.

Astrologers were flooded with concerned phone calls. Is it true? Is the sun not where it's supposed to be according to the Zodiac calendar? Will everyone have to change?

The answer is ... Yes, the sun is not where you expect it to be AND no, you don't have to change. 

Huh?

The answer lies in ancient history. The original zodiac, invented by the ancient Babylonians (or ancient Hindus according to wikipedia), is sidereal, meaning based on the sun's position with the stars. So if you were born under the sign of Leo, the sun really was in Leo. But the earth has slowly wobbled under the pull of the moon and the sidereal calendar has shifted by one month.

However, the Astrology tables used by Western cultures today were created in the 2nd century AD by astronomer/astrology Ptolemy. In this tropical zodiac system the start of Aries is fixed to one solar equinox (March 21), and Libra at the other equinox in September. He knew about the sidereal drift and chose to ignore it by basing the calendar on the equinox (when the day is exactly 12 hours light & dark) instead of the sun's position in the sky.

So which system is "better"? Most "Western" astrologers are sticking with the tropical system but some are making money publishing books about the sidereal system or the 13th constellation.

CNN quotes astrologer Jeff Jawer, "When we look at the astrology used in the Western world, the seasonally based astrology has not changed, was never oriented to the constellations, and stands as … has been stated for two millenniums ... Astrology is geocentric. It relates life on Earth to the Earth’s environment, and seasons are the most dramatic effect, which is why we use the tropical zodiac."

Bottom Line

That "Astrology is geocentric" sounds like an oxymoron - a self contradicting phrase. But when you think about it, the statement is true. Astrology is about the position of the sun and planets from the earth's viewpoint. Or at least it used to be 2000 years ago. As an amateur star gazer I find some value in the sidereal calendar but fail to see the astrological value of the tropical calendar based on the earth's seasons with Aries associated with the start of Spring and Libra with the start of Fall regardless of where the sun is.

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