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Oh My Stars

Astrologers know that life is governed by a collection of recurring cycles. One of the more annoying of those recurring cycles is the fake news story claiming that “your Sign has changed.” There was an outbreak of this a few years ago, and now it’s back — largely because the Internet may always be up to date, but humans are terrible at fact-checking themselves. People tend to believe that one news story from five years ago that boldly proclaimed chocolate as a weight loss drug (or whatever) without really digging into the details of that news story (who wants to believe that chocolate could ever be bad for you?) — and then those same people ignore (or don’t even hear) the five news stories a week later debunking that notion.

Whenever you see a “news” story about “Signs changing,” what you’re actually reading about is (literally) one of the oldest and least-newsworthy stories imaginable. Let me try to explain:

The Earth spins on its North-South axis. That’s why we have stars and constellations that are only visible in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere, and they don’t suddenly change places or anything. However, the Earth does have a slight wobble to its axis. Ever play with a top and notice that the top’s “North Pole” doesn’t stay entirely in place, but wanders around a bit? Same principle, but on a much larger scale.

Let’s say that on January 1st every year, you stand outside at midnight and watch a particular star rise. If you keep doing that, year after year, you’ll notice that star rises a little earlier every year. The difference isn’t much: the sky is divided into 360 degrees, and the difference as to when that specific star rises drifts from your original observation by one degree every seventy two years.

Western Astrology uses what’s called “The Tropical Zodiac,” which is calculated based on the position of the Sun (relative to the background stars) at the first moment of the Vernal Equinox… or “spring” as most people call it. That point determines where zero degrees Aries is, and that point moves relative to the background stars at a rate of — as we’ve established — about one degree every 72 years.

This means that the Signs (as used by Western Astrology) are now offset from the constellations they are named after. Around 2000 years ago, they lined up more exactly.

Got that? Good. Astrologers and astronomers have both known this since before there was even a difference between “astronomers” and “astrologers.” It isn’t news… it’s one of the oldest “science stories” in human history, right up there with “friction from rubbing sticks together can make fire.”

Then, we have all that Ophiuchus nonsense to deal with.

The planets all orbit around the Sun within a specific range of degrees that astrologers call “the Zodiac” and that astronomers call “the plane of the ecliptic,” but they’re the same thing. The Signs of the Tropical Zodiac are named after the twelve most-prominent constellations in that band. Yes, there is a thirteenth constellation that impinges on the Zodiac/plane of the ecliptic. It’s called “Ophiuchus.” That doesn’t make it a “Sign.” If you go outside and actually look at the sky, Ophiuchus is north of Scorpio, not East or West of it like Libra or Sagittarius are, so making Ophiuchus a “Sign” would require a lot of mental gymnastics.

Furthermore, the planets travel within a set range of points along the ecliptic, not the same exact line. That range of planetary motions can cause a planet to appear at times to be in the constellation of Orion or Corvus… and do you see anyone rushing to proclaim that those are Signs too? Yeah, didn’t think so, even though being born under the Sign of The Hunter or The Crow does sound kind of cool, doesn’t it?

So there you have it. Your fears about “your Sign changing” are dealt with, once and for all. This subject will never arise again.

Sorry… I just checked. I’m posting this story while the Moon is Void of Course. So yeah… this story probably will be back, over and over again. Sorry about that.

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