According to Parke Kunkle, who hangs his shingle at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, the zodiac as we’ve known it is no longer valid, and therefore you may be in line for a whole new horoscope.
Astrology goes back several thousand years, which is the root of the problem Kunkle has dredged up for us in the present day. Astronomers of the Babylonian persuasion may not have been the first to note that the sun seems to move through the same set of star groups every year, but around 1800 BC, they were the first to quantify the concept, setting up the twelve constellations from which horoscopes are derived even now.
Though the sky tracking was originally used to determine crop planting times, Greeks extending the research of the Babylonians not only came up with the word “zodiac”, but somehow determined that the stars could influence human events, and that the specific constellation under which one was born would affect genetic code. History has been littered with astrologers ever since, much to the chagrin of astronomers, who prefer to view the cosmos somewhat more dispassionately.
Professor Kunkle, then, might be the ultimate revenge of the telescope jockeys. Using the simple assumption that the earth doesn’t spin in perfect orbits as the Milky Way makes its way through the universe, he says that the twelve signs of the zodiac as we know them have slid out of alignment with the original Babylonian charts, thanks to what’s known as processional movement. “When they say the sun is in Pisces, it’s not really in Pisces,” Kunkle told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. By his reckoning, each sign is about a month off now.
What’s more, to cover the gap, another sign has to be added to the zodiac, and the lucky constellation is Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer. It’s not actually a new star group, but one that’s been on the charts for thousands of years. Apparently, it just didn’t have the right stuff until now.
If you’re wondering how this shakes out for your horoscope, let’s compare. Here’s the old skool zodiac:Aquarius: January 20 - February 18 Pisces: February 19 - March 20 Aries: March 21 - April 19 Taurus: April 20 - May 20 Gemini: May 21 - June 20 Cancer: June 21 - July 22 Leo: July 23 - August 22 Virgo: August 23 - September 22 Libra: September 23 - October 22 Scorpio: October 23 - November 21 Sagittarius: November 22 - December 21 Capricorn: December 22 - January 19
And now, here’s the new cosmic alignment, starting this week: Capricorn: January 20 - February 16 Aquarius: February 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 - August 10 Leo: August 10 - September 16 Virgo: September 16 - October 30 Libra: October 30 - November 23 Scorpio: November 23 - November 29 Ophiuchus: November 29 - December 17 Sagittarius: December 17 - January 20
So, Geena Davis, Jam Master Jay, Anne Ruisi—congratulations! All these years you thought that, with your Aquarian tendencies, you must be a trendsetter for the new millennium, extremely humanitarian, outgoing and amiable, but your January 21 birthday means you’re merely Capricornish now, which means you’re instead ambitious, practical and a superb organizer. And have been, it seems, for hundreds of years already.
Don’t think the astrologers are taking this turn of events lying down. (In fact, if they were any good, they saw this coming a long time ago.) In a masterpiece of spin, online astrologer Eric Francis, writing on PlanetWaves, said this is all just a misunderstanding. “Kunkle is describing what is called the sidereal zodiac: the backdrop of the stars. It’s not the zodiac used by most Western astrologers; it’s the one used by Vedic astrologers, the kind in India, and a few in our part of the world,” he explained. “Here in the West, we use a zodiac that follows the seasons. It’s called the tropical zodiac. It’s based on the position of the Sun’s rays and the tropics—that’s why it’s called tropical. There is another one, based on the positions of the stars. It’s called the sidereal zodiac.
If Kunkle doesn’t know this, it’s like a race car driver not understanding the concept of a tire.” Calling the whole matter a hoax, Francis went on to assure his readership that there has been no fundamental shift in the space-time continuum: “You’re still you.”
That’s a shame, because I was looking forward to some sort of shakeup around here in the wake of the Bentley inauguration and the new GOP-ified Congress. It’s ordinarily difficult to get people to change their way of thinking, but if they got a little nudge from the cosmos suggesting that they might not be the people they think they are…who knows, maybe peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.
“This is the dawning of the age of Ophiuchus…”
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to email@example.com.