The good debate
Like several college of thought that disrupts the established order, astrology isn’t a stranger to controversy. And we at CHANI want to tackle the elephant — or serpent-bearer — within the room: Ophiuchus.
Other than offering a strong instrument for self-discovery, astrology is a numbers sport. There are 12 zodiac indicators, which divide evenly into 4 parts (hearth, earth, air, and water), and three modalities (cardinal, mounted, and mutable). Nevertheless, you might have heard of a “Thirteenth signal,” which might have despatched your astrological id right into a tailspin.
It occurs yearly, like clockwork. There’s a lull within the information cycle and the media retailers scrape the barrel for tales to drive clicks. Tucked inside their bag of methods, the contentious “Thirteenth signal” article is a traditional. This “breaking information” merchandise claims that your Solar signal may very well be pretend as a result of there’s a brand new cosmic baddie on the block: Ophiuchus. (Aka the serpent bearer.) Would possibly as effectively e book that zodiac tattoo removing appointment now.
Spoiler alert: We at CHANI do not work with 13 indicators. However we perceive how simple it’s for such articles to plant seeds of doubt — and confusion. In response to well-liked information retailers, Ophiuchus is the long-lost a part of the zodiac wedged between Scorpio and Sagittarius. Due to this hitherto unnoted slice of cosmic pie, it calls the remainder of the Solar signal dates into query. Beneath this reasoning, Cancers born in the midst of July would possibly actually be Geminis. Mid-Could Tauruses are literally Aries. And in case you’re born between November twenty ninth and December seventeenth, a brand new existential disaster enters the fray. You’re now an indication you didn’t even know existed: Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, whose “passionate” nature and “starvation for data” (in keeping with dictionary.com) make it sound as if it have been the love youngster of Scorpio and Sagittarius. This snake charmer has supposedly been left to languish within the lands of rejected star indicators. Exiled. Written out of the system. Its very existence posing an inconvenient fact for astrologers the world over.
Or so these debunkers would have us consider.
Introducing… the ecliptic
Earlier than we break down what these articles acquired incorrect (in addition to proper), let’s lay down some Astro 101. To grasp why an indication like Ophiuchus is gatecrashing the zodiac, we have to discuss in regards to the 360° band of sky often known as the ecliptic.
The ecliptic is what we name the Solar’s path within the sky from our perspective on Earth. We’ve constellations everywhere in the evening sky — from the Huge Dipper to Casseopoeia to Orion. However what makes the zodiac indicators the zodiac indicators is that they’re located alongside the observe that the Solar travels from our view on Earth. Conventional astrology focuses solely on the constellations that span this path of the heavens, just like the strip of pictures that spin in a zoetrope.
One thing that these articles misunderstand is that the indicators have been by no means exactly mapped onto the constellations that span the ecliptic. The constellations — e.g., Capricornus, Scorpius, Libra, and so on. — are preparations of stars that encompass various sizes. The indicators are symbolic representations of these constellations, and every one includes 30 levels of the celestial longitude of the ecliptic. What’s extra, the zodiac indicators don’t adhere to the location of the constellations within the sky anymore — at the very least not within the tropical zodiac, which many people use in North America. That’s due to the astronomical phenomenon of precession, the place the so-called “mounted” stars drift one diploma each 72 years. Simply to make issues extra complicated.
Historical astrologers knew about precession — that’s why they started the zodiac on a day when the hours of evening all the time equal the hours of day. (That approach, no matter the place on this planet and when in historical past you’re, you may have a place to begin that by no means adjustments.) At the present time is called the equinox. There are technically two equinoxes every year, however Babylonian astrologers began the zodiac on the one which follows winter within the Northern Hemisphere: the spring equinox, which corresponds to the start of Aries season.
The earliest astrologers knew about Ophiuchus too. They merely made the choice to not incorporate this constellation into their system. Why? As a result of whereas the serpent’s tail does contact the ecliptic, nearly all of the constellation looms outdoors of this stretch of sky.
A symbolic order
Astrology is an exquisitely ordered system. The astrologers of historic Babylon selected to work with 12 relatively than 13 indicators as a result of it aligned with the 12-month calendar of their photo voltaic yr. Twelve can also be a potent quantity to work with conceptually, because it divides simply into different numbers, such because the 4 signal parts and three signal modalities we talked about earlier. The quantity 12 additionally works seamlessly with the standard planets — because the luminaries (the Solar and Moon) every rule one signal, whereas Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn every rule two. The symmetry and class of this technique are a part of what set the foundations of Hellenistic astrology, which we nonetheless use immediately.
It should be famous that traditions of astrology nonetheless exist that use a sidereal, relatively than tropical, zodiac. For instance, Vedic astrology, which originated in India, bases its system on the celebrities that span the ecliptic and takes the sluggish drift of the mounted stars into consideration. But it surely doesn’t embody Ophiuchus both.
Simply as there are a number of home methods in astrology, no custom is healthier or worse than one other. They’re merely totally different lenses for organizing our world into patterns, tales, and archetypes.
The Ophiuchus debate will doubtless drag on so long as there are clicks to drive. However now you’ll be able to stage your knowledgeable rebuttal to the Thirteenth-sign truthers and reassure your folks that their Solar signal is protected. And their centaur tattoo too.
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