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That New Sign Ophiucus/The Fated Sky

January 16th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Yesterday, the astrological world was apparently shaken by the news that there is a 13th sign in the Zodiac, namely Ophiucus.  Scorpios are now Libras, Cancers are Geminis and newspaper horoscopes have to do some regrouping!  Thanks to the precession of the equinoxes, the planets do not lie in the same constellations as they did thousands of years ago so really the Scorpio sun is actually lying in Libra territory today.

The concept of the new zodiac sign is based on this phenomenon. However, this is not a new revelation. What  is being described here is well-known to astrologers and it represents two schools of  astrological thought:  the Tropical astrological system popular in the West and the Sidreal/Vedic system popular in the East especially in India.  The two systems are approximately 24 degrees apart and all of the planets calculated on natal horoscope are changed as well.  Is your Venus in Aquarius in the Western natal horoscope?  In the Vedic horoscope, it would be in Capricorn!

There are many questions that astrologers banter around that rival the East/West debate.  For instance, every horoscope is divided into 12 sections called houses representing areas of life such as the houses of personal resources, home and heart, or career.  In the West, there are dozens of ways to “slice the pie” and no one agrees on which house system to use.  It is a great point of contention, Moreover, classic astrology only recognizes the seven visible planets: mercury, venus, mars, jupiter, saturn, plus the sun and the moon which are included on this list.  The outer planets Neptune and Uranus as well as the dwarf planet Pluto are excluded. Vedic astrology uses the seven visible planets plus the Dragons Head and Dragons Tail which are really the North and South nodes of the moon.  Aspects and orbs are another topic of debate.

As you can see, astrology is a complex topic that goes beyond whether there is a so-called 13th sign of the zodiac.  I would like to recommend a book called The Fated Sky by Benson Bobrick, a Columbia University graduate who has written several critically acclaimed books on historical topics.   In this book, he traces the history of astrology starting from the earliest surviving birthchart of April 29, 410 BC through all of the great astronomers (who also happened to be astrologers) such as Ptolemy,Keppler, and Copernicus. He also describes the rise of “sun sign astrology”, or “newspaper astrology”, that was popularized by Alan Leo in the late 19th and early 20th century.   It is a fascinating study of the impact of planetary cycles on all of the world’s religions and importance of the court astrologer in all royal houses in history. This broad historical view does not insult the intelligence of the reader but gives a wide view of an art and a science (the concepts are based on mathematical measurements) that has existed for thousands of years. I certainly enjoyed reading it and it made me wonder.

Sometimes when I am up in northern Minnesota and I am treated to a cloudless sky with a new moon, I try to imagine what it must be like to lie in an open field during the ancient times, when there was no light from below and no pollution from millions of cars-to see the sky and the seven visible planets with completely clarity.  And further, to watch the movements of the planets and to see their relationship to one another change.   Scores of  learned men throughout history did just that. Like the sundial measures time, the planets in the sky measure seasons and cycles.  How this is all interpreted is a matter of a debate that has gone on for centuries and isn’t likely to be resolved or proven by anyone.  Still I still wonder what they really saw. How did they connect what they saw above to what they observed below?   Of course, usually when I read one book about a topic, I have to read many more.  What I found was more questions than answers which is pretty typical for anyone who investigates this topic.   Still, to get a broad and intelligent overview on the topic of astrology, try the Fated Sky.

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