Zodiac Alert

The recent brouhaha about the 13th sign of the zodiac needs to be laid to rest. Be assured, you’re still an Aries or a Sagittarius, a Scorpio or a Capricorn. Nothing has changed.

So, once again some astronomer, in this case Parke Kunkle from the Minnesota Planetarium Society, has plunged headlong into the trough of astrological fallacies and come up with the notion that the signs of the zodiac are wrong because they no longer match the constellations. This old chestnut makes its appearance every few years or so and was most recently aired in 1995 when Walter Berg and Mark Yazaki came up with the idea of a 13-sign zodiac. Such ideas are fun at best and should be treated as publicity stunts.

I’m going to give you the facts but it’s complicated.

The zodiac almost all Western-based astrologers use is known as the Tropical Zodiac. This system was introduced by Ptolemy in the 2nd Century AD; in very simplistic terms it divides the twelve signs of the zodiac into equal 30 degree parts, using as a reference the solar system and not the constellations. In this way, the Tropical Zodiac can be said to be seasonal because it matches the seasons; spring – the vernal equinox, 0 degrees Aries – occurs each year around 21 March, the summer solstice around 21 June, and so on. It matters not one iota that the earth’s wobble has caused a drift of a degree every 72 years so that the sun now enters Aries against the background of the constellation Pisces – a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. (I told you this was complicated.)

Sidereal astrology, on the other hand – a system used in the main by Eastern astrologers – does use as a reference point the constellations, which is why, if you consult a Hindu astrologer, for instance, your sun, moon and planets will tend to be in the preceding sign. Although sidereal astrologers claim that this is a truer system of astrology, based as it is on the actual constellations, there is a point to be made for it being less true, since the constellations themselves do not fit into neat little 30 degree segments – they are wildly irregular.

Rest assured, the zodiac has not changed. There are still twelve signs and you still belong to the same one!

Penny Thornton

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