So about 2 weeks ago the internet was all beside themselves in a tizzy because YET AGAIN another 'you've been reading the wrong Zodiac sign this whoole time!' article popped up- this time carrying the clout that this *new* revelation came straight from NASA themselves.
Well shit, if NASA said it then it must be true, right??
...well, yea, sure- if their business was actually dealing with ASTROLOGY. But no, that's not their wheelhouse, and they have flat-out said as such. So why did this particular iteration of the 'new Zodiac sign' have such teeth to it? Simply put, it's an understandable conflation of astrology and astronomy, utter carelessness on behalf of Cosmopolitan Magazine [big shock] and humanity's collectively short memory span- mixed with the occasional 'intelligent' person looking over their nose at those of choosing who choose to study astrology.
So let's break this down, shall we?
Why Astrology =/= Astronomy
When I was a wee kid in the 3rd and 4th grade, my go-to books to read were all about space- I was fascinated with planetary facts and the solar system at large, and thus I read books devoted to ASTRONOMY - the scientific study of stars, planets and space itself.
THIS is what NASA concentrates on.
Now, I can see where the average person who get confused with a similarly-rooted word such as ASTROLOGY- but while astrology also takes notice of the movements and relative positions of the various celestial bodies above us in relation to our planet, its primary focus is using this knowledge to divine the influence these movements have on humanity, the natural world at large, and a way to receive communication with the Divine [note the capitalization there]. Like other esoteric and religious practices, it was a way for humanity to Answer the Unanswerable by using the planets to glean information through signs and omens.
For a very long time Astrology was indeed considered an actual science in tandem with astronomy in multiple civilizations, and for more than just a couple of centuries. With the dawn of major scientific advancement, however, people were able to successfully argue that astrology was not a science and had no relevance in modern school of thought.
I politely disagree on that point, obviously- but that's not the point of this post. *wink*
So that's the difference between ASTROLOGY [what I study now!] and ASTRONOMY [what I have an equally heavy respect for].
Cosmo Done F*cked Up Again
For a magazine we easily use as the butt of a joke with their inane sex tips, I'm surprised that some people considered them the herald of factual information regarding zodiac signs.
Anyway! This recent edition of zodiac confusion is squarely their fault: their UK branch started off by misreading on a page run by NASA for kids, breaking down astronomy in simple terms- and most importantly, how astrology started out: from the observations of the stars by Babylonian civilizations over 3000 years ago, the mostly-Hellenistic practice of using the stars to create pictures to go along with their storytelling [your various constellations created in literally any Greek myth you have ever heard] AND using 12 of them in particular [your classic Zodiac signs] to do the aforementioned divining, communicating with deities, and tracking the seasons.
4 major seasons, 4 major elemental forces. Each season and each element each getting 3 constellations based on the attributes. Easy, simple, beautiful math there. It's also why our calendar is structured the way it is- mapping the seasons to what they saw above them, and to do it neatly with 12 months, you have 12 constellations that the Sun passes through in a year-span. Ta-dah, that's your Tropical Zodiac!*
*as opposed to the other various sytems of astrology that other cultures use, such as the sidereal or Vedic system- but that's not relevant here!
Where Cosmo hit the brakes was this little factoid: upon NASA discovering that the Earth wobbles just a tiny bit during its journey around the Sun, it means that the positions where we see the stars above today are definitely NOT where they would have appeared to be to the ancient Babylonians.
So to give an example: just because we can see three stars in a row and mark it as Orion's Belt does not mean those same three stars actually exist side-by-side in the same physical space- they're most likely VERY far apart from each other, and will definitely be much further apart now than they were when the Babylonians saw them first.
Also, light from most stars take LIGHTYEARS to reach our puny human eyes, and with that much time passing, we are receiving visual information that is sorely out of date! Those same three stars might not even exist anymore as of my writing this article, but no one in our lifetime- or at least several other generations for that matter- will ever get concrete proof of that in the night sky for a while.
So naturally Cosmo put 2 + 2 together, got 5 and said that this meant that NASA had *discovered* a *NEW* Zodiac sign that the Sun goes through, from November 29th to December 17th: Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer.
Couple of problems with that inclusion, of course:
So yea, the anti-astrology camp had a valid point about how people back in the day observed the stars and made decisions based on them: it was definitely a faulty system. But it was ALSO over 3000 years ago, no one back then would even DREAM about humans going up to space, landing on the Moon, sending a robot to Mars. etc! The great thing about science is the evolution of thought- it's how we learn!
Haven't I Heard This Song Before?
Honestly, this is the part that irks me a bit more than everything else: "Ophiuchus as the 13th Zodiac sign" and it's accompanying "You've Been Reading The Wrong Horoscope!" is a tune that has been coming and going almost yearly by this point. Like clockwork, some random blogger will always *discover* Ophiuchus and then proclaim their newfound knowledge to the world- and since the wider world isn't interested in just how complex astrology actually is [or remembers the last time this came up], they run with the admittedly harmless hysteria this usually brings about. Western-based Astrologers who work under the tropical Zodiac constantly state that this information doesn't apply to their practice [as it shouldn't!] and those who follow sidereal astrology only sometimes include ol' Snake-Guy up there.
It's a story that's being going on since the 70s thanks to Stephen Schmidt who had proposed a 14-sign Zodiac system [which while easier to divide up that 13, still would throw things for a loop], but it wasn't until 1995 when the idea really started to gain teeth. British astrologer Walter Berg published his book "The 13 Signs of the Zodiac" in Japan and it became HUGE- along with his partnership with Mark Yazaki AND the fact that Ophiuchus is heavily featured in Japanese pop-culture [as anyone who's a fan of Fairy Tail or Final Fantasy probably know!], you can see where the confusion lies.
And as the years go on, more people- from professional astronomers to the average joe- constantly continue to conflate the *discovery* of Ophiuchus with the notion that it has anything to do with Western/Tropical Astrology.
So... What Exactly Is My Sign?
Whatever sign you want to be *wink*.
Here's the thing: astrology may be a pseudoscience to everyone else, but it is still a complex system of planetary relationships and analysis that has been around for quite a while. It is more than just the horoscope you carelessly read in your newspaper just for a good laugh. When we ask people "what's your sign?" we're really asking "what part of this celestial pathway was the Sun in relation to the Earth on the day of your birth?"- and as each planet [and some lesser planets, asteroids and stars!] have their own correspondences, where they fall in your natal chart and how they interact with other planets, the signs they're in and the Houses of your chart will ALSO play a part in how you're shaped, Cosmically-speaking.
Most people are surprised that I'm a Piscean- I come across as far too brash and over-confident, and that's due to my rising sign in Taurus. But I ALSO have a long streak of being analytical, organized and exacting in my decisions and actions- and you can thank my Moon's placement in Virgo for that.
So yes- your Sun Sign is literally just the tip of the Cosmic iceberg!
So if all this talk about 13-signs and the like are just too confusing for you, I greatly suggest you go to a free website like Astro.com, enter in your birth details and just take a peek at your chart- at the very least you'll get a better understanding of just how much goes into your chart and why tabloid horoscopes are really just Diet-Astrology.
If you think there might be some merit to your newfound sign placement with Ophiuchus added in, then maybe the sidereal method of astrology might be worth looking into for you. For me, it doesn't add up to me, so I will continue to fly my Piscean-flag proudly.
At the end of the day, you'll know which method is right when you read something ascribed to you and you have that gnawing moment of 'oh shit' in the pit of your stomach. Remember- this is a system that has been around for millennia, so there will be something out there that will add up for you~
LINDSAY - Black Woman, Wife, Witch and Resident Blogger of DarkLake Tarot~
What I'm Listening To