Sorry for the slow page load! This article has gone viral. What a trip. By the way – you can read your 2011 Annual Horoscope Here. Or, check in with your Emotoscope.
Dear Friend and Reader:
I wish I could put out a press release announcing that the world is flat, and send astronomers scrambling — to return the favor for when an astronomer sends out a press release announcing that your zodiac sign is wrong. That’s what happened this week when the following went viral faster than the dude who got rich dancing around like a dork in 34 countries:
Astronomer Parke Kunkle says that due to changes in the Earth’s alignment the dates of many zodiac signs have changed, according to NBC. In addition, there may be a 13th Zodiac sign: Ophiuchus. Kunkle says that as the Earth and Sun slowly move the signs gradually change, as expected. The change didn’t happen over night either. The 12 signs were designated to different periods of the year almost 3,000 years ago, when astrology began, and since then the Earth’s position in relation to the sun has changed.
Either this is a joke or Parke Kunkle is truly ignorant of his own science. It’s probably a bit of both.
There are two zodiacs in common use. Kunkle is describing what is called the sidereal zodiac: the backdrop of the stars. It’s not the zodiac used by most Western astrologers; it’s the one used by Vedic astrologers, the kind in India, and a few in our part of the world. The two zodiacs are offset by about 23 degrees. I’ll explain why in a moment.
Here in the West, we use a zodiac that follows the seasons. It’s called the tropical zodiac. It’s based on the position of the Sun’s rays and the tropics — that’s why it’s called tropical. There is another one, based on the positions of the stars. It’s called the sidereal zodiac. If Kunkle doesn’t know this, it’s like a race car driver not understanding the concept of a tire. If so, he also doesn’t understand a long list of other concepts that must make it very difficult for him to do his work. Well, that’s what grad students are for. Notably, the sidereal zodiac is a feature in all astrology software.
In the Western or tropical zodiac, the Sun enters the tropical sign Aries the day of the vernal equinox each March. That’s the day that the Sun’s rays meet the equator directly overhead — the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the prior draft and in the audio I said ‘at a right angle’. Same idea.) The Sun enters the tropical sign Cancer when the Sun’s rays square the Tropic of Cancer — the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, or summer solstice. The Sun enters Libra when the Sun’s rays square the equator again in September. The Sun enters Capricorn when the Sun’s rays square the Tropic of Capricorn each December, which is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).
You then take those four cardinal points and divide them equally and you have the 12 signs of the tropical horoscope. There are no ‘extra signs’ added — the tropical zodiac is a division of the 360-degree wheel of the year into 12 equal slices of 30 degrees. This is not rocket science — but it is science.
As mentioned, the Western zodiac begins the day of the vernal equinox. The position of the Sun that day is called the Aries Point — or the Sidereal Vernal Point. If you read Planet Waves, you read about the Aries Point nearly every week. It’s extremely sensitive. The position of the Sidereal Vernal Point or Aries Point moves gradually as the Earth wobbles on its axis. Currently, the SVP is at 5 degrees Pisces on the sidereal zodiac. Hence, the tropical sign Aries begins in the sidereal sign Pisces. And as the Earth wobbles, the SVP is moving backwards toward Aquarius — hence “the Age of Aquarius.” About 2,000 years ago, the tropical signs aligned with the sidereal signs. Now they have precessed backwards by about 23 degrees. And for that matter, so has Christmas.
We don’t adjust Christmas one day every 70 years but sure enough, eventually, Dec. 25 will fall in the middle of Northern Hemisphere summer, with no help from global warming.
So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.
As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.
The origin of the hoax is a sci-fi author named John Sladek — a satire writer who died in 2000. Sladek liked to prank astrology, and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was “suppressed by the scientific community.” The Ophiuchus hoax first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those emails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way.
Yours & truly,
Kingston, New York USA