Don't Worry, Your Sign Hasn't Really Changed (and other grumblings about astrology)

So the big news everyone's worried about today, apparently, is a story, that as far as I can tell, without caring enough to spend a lot of time researching it, comes to us out of Chicago, that claims that due to stellar drift, the alignment of the sun has changed relative to the stars behind it, ("behind" being another rather relative term), and as such, the astrological sign we're born under has changed by about one sign.

Then, because the general population who is a little too far into astrology without really understanding any of the mathematics or principles behind it weren't quite nutty enough to begin with, someone started floating around this idea that they were going to add a 13th sign - Ophiuchus or Serpentarius - into the zodiac.

I think I've made clear before how I feel about astrology generally, and would consider myself more of an "astronomologist;" that is, I believe that astrology was originally the study of what we would now call astronomy, and when modern astronomy came along, they pretty much swept everything they didn't understand about it - most of it - under the rug like a red-headed step-child and refused to ever talk about it again, even though there are a few sound theories in it.  Not all, mind you, but a few.  I've already ranted about mercury retrograde ruining my life, right on schedule, every four months, so I'll spare you the reprise.

But here's the deal.

The zodiac is not based on constellations.  It's much more specific than that.  It's a system of measurement.  The twelve houses of the zodiac are measurements that deal with the earth's revolution around the sun, and really have nothing to do with stars.  In particular, the zodiac "starts" (inasmuch as any circle or spiral really starts, i.e. arbitrarily) at the sign of Aries, which very specifically marks the vernal equinox.  From there, each sign measures a perfect 30° segment of the 360° of the "circle" of the year, i.e. the path of the earth around the sun.  So, about one sign per month, give or take 5 days over the course of a year.  In fact the 12 zodiac signs is where we get months, but you can see that's off by about 10 days now too, thanks to Pope Gregory.  (Or was it Julian? Another thing I don't care enough about to look up in the middle of my ranting.  A pope changed the calendar, end of story.) 

The actual constellation of Aries, years ago, fell within this first 30° "starting point," and so the zodiac sign was called Aries because it was a good and recognizable marker. Likewise Taurus, Gemini, and so on around the wheel. Cancer marks the summer solstice, Libra the autumnal equinox, and Capricorn the winter solstice. This is a perfectly natural and regular system of measurement, even to those who do not follow western astrology. The Chinese, for example, divide the solar part of their lunisolar calendar up into 15° increments, called the 24 solar terms (節氣), each of which has a name related more to the seasonal conditions (such as 大雪 ["great snow"], or 小滿 ["grain in bud"], at the time rather than the zodiac sign behind the sun at the time, but the time periods are exactly the same, e.g 大雪 = The second half of Scorpio, and 小滿 = The first half of Gemini.

Think of the constellations like signposts on a fault line.  Over the years, the fault line that is our galactic rotation, or stellar drift, or whatever it was I didn't care enough about to look up, has shifted the signs down by one building, so now it says "Butcher" in front of the Bakery, but the bakery still has cake in it, and the butcher next door still has meat, even though out front it says "Flowers."  Oh, and Ophiucus is just some graffiti someone scribbled on an old fence post, or maybe a reward for a lost dog - it's not a legitimate business.  Ophiucus is just another of thousands of signs and bits of writing (read: constellations) along the street in front of these twelve buildings (read: zodiac), and it just now happens to be right out there in front of the Florist.

So take heart:  Virgos and Sagittarians are still just as obsessive-compulsive as ever, Scorpians just as venomous, Taureans just as stubborn, Librans just as indecisive, Geminis just as aloof, and Pisceans just as given to drink as they ever were.  But from a galactic perspective, they're just mislabeled.

(Wait, which signs have I missed?  Who among my friends is still speaking to me?)

...Leos just as vain, Aquarians just as air-headed, Aries just as full of control issues, Cancers just so much emotional wreckage, Capricorns still fretting and wringing their hands with worry...

So, to sum up:  Feh.  Stars move.  Stars also have little-to-nothing to do with astrology (it's really about the earth's position relative to the sun, moon, and other planets).  And the zodiac has little-to-nothing to do with constellations.  So get over it.

Bah.  Humbug.  And other words of snorting contempt.

And rot like that.

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