Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Tropical Vs. Sidereal Zodiac -- Debunking Ophiuchus-Gate Part II

The Balance of the Zodiac by Luis Ricardo Falero
(Yes, it's a nude. Settle down.)
I've been planning a follow-up post in regards to all this Ophiuchus nonsense for a while now, because my last post didn't really get too far into the differences between the principles of Western astrology and how they differ from those of Eastern astrology.

Before, I really only talked about Ophiuchus, why he's not news, why we never included him in the line-up, and why astronomers should probably stop running their yaps about astrology when it's clear they really don't understand it. However, after the whole issue continued to explode for two days straight and the issue of East versus West has come up in other people's articles and discussions on the subject, I now feel like this is a good time to address it here as well.

The Tropical Zodiac Vs. the Sidereal Zodiac

Probably a lot of the continuing confusion attached to Ophiuchus-Gate 2011 stemmed from the fact that there are two variations when it comes to the zodiac. Here's what that's all about.

One variation is the tropical zodiac and that's what we use here in Western astrology. While the signs did at one point line up with the constellations they're named after at one point, they no longer do. Kunkle is right about that part of it. However, where he was wrong was in assuming that this phenomenon actually matters in regards to how Western astrology defines the signs. The signs of the tropical zodiac and the sections of the year they're each associated with are determined by the seasons, as opposed to the constellations.

The first day of Aries aligns with the date of the vernal equinox and the rest of the zodiac follows the sequence from there until we get back to the vernal equinox and Aries again. This is something that will remain constant throughout time, because it's more of a calendar or measuring device than anything else. That said, the constellations can advance in space all they want and it doesn't change a thing.

Then there is the sidereal or Vedic zodiac, which is used more in the East. That's aligned a lot more closely to the constellations and how they're positioned, as opposed to the seasons. I don't know a whole lot about Vedic astrology though, so I can't really comment on whether or not Kunkle's proposed chart has been or should be adopted by astrologers who follow that path. (I assume that Eastern astrologers aren't idiots any more than Western astrologers are and have been taking the movement of the constellations into account for thousands of years already.) All I can say is that Kunkle's not-so-new news is irrelevant in regards to Western astrology any way you want to slice it and since most people who were freaking over Ophiuchus-Gate adhere to Western astrology, they can relax.

Wait a minute! Are you saying that Western astrologers just ignore the fact that the constellations aren't in the same places as they were thousands of years ago?

Not at all! We actually do acknowledge that fact and it is part of how we do things. I touched on it briefly in my last article, but didn't really elaborate much, so I will do so now. Yes, the signs are static and adhere to the seasons and the sequence of the year. However, the astrological ages do take into account where that initial starting point is in regards to constellations at a given time. Right now, it's in the process of moving from Pisces to Aquarius. You may have heard of a little thing called the Age of Aquarius? Well, now you can officially say that you know what it is and why we're moving into the Age of Aquarius right now and not Cancer, Leo or anything else.

That said, I really hope that maybe people learned a few things about how astrology works and how it doesn't from this whole Ophiuchus debacle. I also really hope that people have learned what the difference is between astrology and astronomy, as well as the reasons why astronomers really have no business trying to explain astrology to people. I've really done my best to help people understand. Hopefully this clears some things up for people, but if it doesn't, feel free to ask more questions and I may consider addressing them in a future post.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Sky Is Falling! Should Astrologers Be Taking the New Zodiac Sign Dates Seriously?

Oh, hai there, Ophiuchus!
If you keep finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world of astrology to any extent at all, then you've probably heard a little bit about some dude named Ophiuchus this morning. According to astronomer Parke Kunkle and his recent chat with NBC, Ophiuchus is the 13th sign of the zodiac and a lot of you might not actually be Sagittarians or Scorpios the way you've always thought. You might actually be... Ophiuchuns.

Oh, and the rest of us aren't really the signs we thought we were either. When you adjust the zodiac we know to make room for Ophiuchus you're left with a pretty major shift that affects all of the signs to equal degrees. Many Pisceans are now supposed to consider themselves Aquarians. Cancers are finding out they're really Geminis. It's madness!

Or at least that's the case if you want to take Kunkle's word for it. He feels that the true dates attached to each zodiac sign should be adjusted to run as follows:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 - Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 - March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18 - May 13
Taurus: May 13 - June 21
Gemini: June 21 - July 20
Cancer: July 20 - Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10 - Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16 - Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30 - Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23 - Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29 - Dec. 17 
Sagittarius: Dec. 17 - Jan. 20

What's this guy talking about when he says "our signs have changed"?

What Kunkle is actually referring to is the natural shifting of the positions of the constellations in relationship to the earth and the vernal equinox over the last 3,000 years or so. While it may feel as if you went to bed last night as a Sagittarius and woke up as an Ophiuchus all of a sudden thanks to Kunkle and the evolution of the universe, that really isn't the case. This is a gradual change that has taken millennia to occur, so what Kunkle is saying is that you've been living a lie your whole life and actually never were the sign you were always led to believe you are.

Or at least that would be the case if Western astrology went by the actual constellations, which it doesn't. Never mind the fact that Kunkle's an astronomer and not an astrologer for now. He isn't even coming to this conclusion based on proper knowledge of Western astrology. We'll get to that in a minute though.

So why are we only just now hearing about something like a 13th constellation?

That's a really good question, actually. It's certainly not because it's actually news! The thing is the existence of Ophiuchus -- also known as Serpentarius -- as a constellation that partially appears between Scorpio and Sagittarius isn't new information to astrologers at all unless they're very limited in their knowledge of their craft or haven't studied for very long. Both astronomers and astrologers alike have always known about Ophiuchus, actually.

In fact, even the ancient Babylonians who are credited with inventing astrology knew about it and actually chose not to include it as part of the sequence of the zodiac because they didn't think it was significant... at least not in any individual sense. Some believe that the reason Sagittarius and Scorpio are both associated with Ophiuchus-related qualities like healing and regeneration to some extent is because Ophiuchus technically shows up for a second in between the two, but that's about it.

Take a minute to ponder that. They knew about Ophiuchus, decided he wasn't relevant enough to get a spot in the zodiac of his own, and gave him the finger, so I am really not sure why Parke Kunkle is getting credit for breaking the news that he exists to the rest of us. We know he's there and we just don't care that much. When Seth told me about the discovery of a new zodiac sign being in the news and I looked it up for myself to see what was going on, do you know what my reaction was? "Oh, it's just Ophiuchus. Whatever."

As for the precession of the equinoxes and the constellations, I thought that was something we all learned in our 3rd grade science classes. Astrologers are certainly aware of it. We actually measure the astrological ages by where that initial starting point is situated. It's currently moving from Pisces to Aquarius, which is exactly why you hear so much about "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius". The actual periods of time attached to the signs are based on the seasons though, not the constellations.

Why isn't Ophiuchus considered relevant as a constellation though? 

Well, there are a number of theories as to why. Some think that since the number 13 was considered so unlucky in Western culture that astrologers decided to sweep Ophiuchus under the rug because of triskaidekaphobia. However, that doesn't really scan the way I see it. Quite a few ancient cultures considered 13 to be pretty fortuitous and it's hard for me to imagine ancient astrologers simply eliminating something as seemingly relevant as a 13th zodiac sign "just because". Remember, the ancients planned their lives around astrology and took it pretty darned seriously.

Most modern astrologers believe that Ophiuchus was never really acknowledged because of its awkward positioning in regards to the rest of the sequence. The sun really didn't spend enough time in that sign for it to hold an official position and that constellation is not as bright or prominent as the others, so it's simply omitted from the line-up while his associated qualities are absorbed into Sagittarius and Scorpio.

Even so, there are certainly a handful of astrologers who feel differently and consider Ophiuchus to be relevant as a sign all his own and this has always been the case. However, it's important to note that astrologers who honestly believe in the relevance of the 13th sign are in the minority by a landslide (maybe 1% of us, if that). You see a similar type of debate over minor astral bodies like dwarf planets and asteroids. Some astrologers think they should be taken into consideration and others don't actually feel they affect someone's chart in any significant way. You get the picture.

But what does all this mean for astrologers?

Honestly? Probably not a whole lot unless a handful of additional astrologers suddenly decide they want to join that 1% minority I mentioned. Even if they did, Kunkle's suggested zodiac schedule above doesn't hold water in adherence to the way we do things in Western astrology, but I'll have to get into that in another post some other time. Suffice it to say for now though that in Western astrology, we adhere to the seasons and movement of the planets, not the constellations. Also, keep in mind that Parke Kunkle is an astronomer, as opposed to an astrologer. The two are very different beasts -- not the same at all.

Remember when astronomers just up and decided Pluto wasn't a planet anymore? Astrologers pretty much just shrugged and continued to see it as relevant, same as before, because in astrology? It is relevant. That's not always what happens, of course. For instance, when the outer planets such as Neptune and Uranus were first discovered, they eventually became accepted as part of the astrological universe at large. Astronomy and astrology are connected in that way, but generally speaking, they are two different practices.

However, as I mentioned above, Kunkle didn't tell us anything we didn't already know about in the same way the astronomers who discovered Neptune and Uranus did. The only thing that's really changed is that the buzz has made more casual adherents to Western astrology aware of the fact that Ophiuchus exists, so you may see more astrologers feeling as if it should be taken into consideration one way or another. However, the rest of us who already know he's there and feel the reasons for his not being part of the zodiac on his own are valid really aren't going to care or do anything differently.

As for the whole shifting of the earth in relation to the constellations phenomenon over thousands of years, we know about that as well. As I mentioned, we already take that into consideration when drawing up horoscopes, making predictions based on the stars, or practicing astrology in general. I've always known that your typical astronomer laughs at those of us who practice astrology, but I have to say I'm surprised at how stupid they apparently seem to think we are.

Either way, it's kind of a moot point, because astrology and astronomy aren't the same thing. If you really want to know whether or not this Ophiuchus business will affect your horoscopes (it won't), look to astrologers for your answers. Astronomers just think you're stupid for caring about your horoscope at all. They don't understand the principals that Western astrology is based on, so they should probably stay out of trying to talk about it like they're experts on the subject.

That said, you can stop fretting over this for all intents and purposes. If you really feel like calling yourself an "Ophiuchus", I guess you can join that 1% minority and go ahead. It's a free country, after all. However, most astrologers will continue to think of you as the same Scorpio or Sagittarius you've always been.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On Spiritually Based Resolutions for the New Year

I know I say this on at least one of my sites every year, but I never really know how I feel about New Year's resolutions. I'm generally of the mind that if you want to break a bad habit or embark on a wonderful new adventure, then there is no time like the present and no day like today. However, starting a shiny new year is nevertheless a very good reason to look around, take inventory in regards to the previous year, and think more about where you'd like life to lead you in the year to come. 

Almost every time I talk about New Year's resolutions anywhere (either on time like usual or a week late like right now), I tend to mention the same things. I want to work hard and continue to excel in regards to my business. I want to remember to come out of myself often enough and for long enough to remember to value those who are important to me. And yes, I often typically would like to amp up my exercise routine and lose a few pounds after a no-doubt indulgent holiday season. 

However, I almost never think about spirituality and what promises I want to make to myself in that arena. For that reason, I thought it might be a good reason to really focus on that for just a second. This was especially the case after I saw that was last week's pagan blog prompt.
Seems about right that we be setting new goals for ourselves, whether in the form of New Year's Resolutions or simply as results of the inner journey from the retrograde period.
So, feel free to share whichever you are comfortable with... Personal New Year's resolutions, goals for you and your projects, or steps you plan to take in your spiritual journey, in 2011 and beyond.
I would say that this year, I mostly want to take more time to be grateful and appreciative in regards to being able to explore my spirituality as I choose again. This time last year, I wouldn't even have been able to keep a blog like this because of the fabulously intolerant environment I was living in and I am sincerely grateful to be able to do so this year. I've also been able to consult my tarot cards, astrological charts or runes whenever I want to and speak openly about my beliefs if I feel moved to. No one judges me for it or attempts to forbid me to do so. If anything, they want to know more about what I'm doing out of pure interest. I will always be grateful for that and will never take such a seemingly simple thing for granted again.

I also would like to really seriously explore performing spiritual counseling services for others on a more regular basis. I've tested the waters a little bit to see if more people might be interested in that from me and gotten a really wonderful response. Lots of people have not only expressed interest in getting a reading or a birth chart from me, but they've also made sure that I know they really trust me in particular to do these things for them. That makes me feel amazing! There are a lot of self-serving charlatans and fruit loops out there in the new age and pagan community giving those of us who work with integrity a bad name and there always have been, so it feels great to think I might be doing my part to help people see it just doesn't have to be that way.

I've already been taking on more writing projects and such as they apply to the new age movement and alternative spirituality as well and have been doing really well with it. I've even been given a national new age column at The Examiner recently, so that will be yet another fun avenue through which I can continue express myself and reach people. I'm really excited about all of this. Connection with this universe, with my own spirit and with the powers that be bring me a lot of joy and comfort. I'm excited to see what this new year will bring me when it comes to those pursuits.

Cat's Cosmic Weather Report -- January 2011

I'm not sure I really have that massive an audience here yet, so it's hard for me to imagine huge crowds sitting around chewing their fingernails because I hadn't posted the weather report, but regardless... I apologize for this being posted a bit later than I  would have liked. Life seems like it's always feast or famine when it comes to things to do and the last few weeks have certainly been more "feast" than anything else. I'm sure you all know how it is.

I'm going to go ahead and put this together the same way I did it last month -- an overview of the major general influences, as opposed to individual horoscopes for each sign. That said, here is your cosmic weather report for January 2011, the first month of this fabulous new year we're embarking upon. While it's only natural for people to be thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings in January, there is plenty going on in the heavens this month that will make doing so the order of the day for certain.


Jupiter-Uranus Conjunction / Solar Eclipse

Although January 4th has already come and gone as of the date of this posting, it's still very important that we take a look at how important a day this was astrologically speaking. Both of these aspects are powerful ones that will have started things in motion that will be part of your life for a long time to come.

To begin with, we had a solar eclipse in the sign of Capricorn on that day. As we discussed in my recent article on the lunar eclipse at the end of December, all eclipses have a way of setting things in motion and sowing the seeds of better days to come. However, while lunar eclipses are always best known for cleaning house, especially when it comes to old connections and ways of thinking that no longer serve us, solar eclipses are known for bringing bright new beginnings. For that reason, they tend to be mentally and emotionally easier to deal with.

Since this particular eclipse went down in Capricorn, it's more than a little possible you felt moved to explore new avenues when it comes to your profession, your budget, or your overall approach to finance. Some people literally went out and looked for new jobs or started new businesses. Others simply tweaked the way they do things in regards to their existing one. The universe may even have dropped a seemingly golden opportunity in your lap on or around that day. You might want to look back to what was going on then to help you figure out whether or not someone up there was trying to tell you something.

January 4th also found us experiencing a powerful Jupiter-Uranus conjunction. This event is even more important when you consider that it was the third and final conjunction in a series that began in the middle of the summer last year. Many of you very likely felt an incredible forward surge of creative energy or momentum around then and I'll bet you were coming up with some pretty big ideas, especially if you're an artist or visionary of any kind. Pay attention to them! They are not only sent straight to you from the universe itself, but they are related to the completion of a cycle of change you've been going through for more than six months.

Mars-Jupiter Sextile / Mercury-Pluto Conjunction

Mars and Jupiter will be forming a fortuitous sextile on the 13th. This means additional support for anything innovative and related to personal freedom, so if the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction or the solar eclipse presented you with anything of importance to chew on earlier in the month, you should be pleased to know that lucky Jupiter and energetic Mars have your back. They'll be seeing to it that you're really feeling your oats and performing at your best.

Nevertheless, on the 17th watch out for the effects of a conjunction between communicative Mercury and penetrating Pluto. If you've been kidding yourself about anything or avoiding important facts because they're tough to take out and view in the light of day, you'll soon be forced into a reality check. If you've been living in fantasy land or foolishly holding onto illusions in regards to an important person or situation, this aspect will be bringing things back into focus for you. It's a good thing though! It's always better to see and understand things as they are, especially when plans for the future are involved.

Full Moon in Cancer / Jupiter-Uranus Trine

The full moon this month will be taking place in the sign of Cancer on the 19th this month. Cancer is the moon's home territory and it is strongly tied to the past, intuition, and the deepest wells of human emotion. You may find tears flowing freely on and around that date, but don't necessarily assume that they're tears of sadness. They are tears of feeling more than anything else and could just as easily be related to overwhelmingly positive emotions. 

Jupiter and Uranus will also be forming a fortuitous trine with this heartfelt full moon, adding another layer of meaning to anything that may be going on at the time. Jupiter is the planet of expansion and grace while Uranus is the father of innovation and surprise. Here is a golden opportunity to draw new strength from the parts of your past that are positive while cutting negative, soul-poisoning ties with the ones that are toxic. Whatever this full moon brings you this month, you'll be coming out of it on the other side with a newfound sense of purpose you'll have to experience to believe.