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Ignore the Hoax

This is excerpted from a longer article.



News Flash: The zodiac isn't wrong. Your sign isn't changing. Ignore the misinformation.

Every year or so, another astronomer erupts into the mainstream media with a portentous announcement about how, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the astrological signs are no longer aligned with the actual constellations. Often the supposed 13th constellation, Ophiuchus, is also invoked as a further proof of how delusional astrologers are.

What it means, according to these experts, is that astrology is invalid. Most of the people who think they're Tauruses are actually Aries. Most Scorpios are really Libras. And so on.

That latest offering is from Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society. "When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces," he speculated, "it's really not in Pisces." His supposition hit the Internet recently, on Gawker and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other places.

I understand that scientists like him would prefer not to lower themselves to the task of actually doing research about how astrology works. But if they're going to question its foundations, they should at least learn it well enough to know what they're talking about.

Here, briefly, is the lowdown on what certain astronomers are too lazy to find out for themselves.

The astrological signs are not defined by the constellations you see in the sky. In antiquity, when both astrological and astronomical thinking were based on insufficient data, the names of the constellations happened to be paired with the astrological signs. Today, those pairings are no longer in sync: Astrological signs do not line up with the constellations in the same way they did way back then, due to the precession of the equinoxes.

Modern Western astrologers understand this perfectly. It 's irrelevant to their work because the information upon which they base their hypotheses does not involve a study of distant stars or constellations. Rather, their data have to do with the movements of the planets in our own solar system within a zone of influence defined by the relationship between the Earth and Sun.

The key demarcation points in that relationship are the equinoxes and solstices. At the Northern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, which occurs on about March 20th of each year, the Sun enters into the sign of Aries. At the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice, the sun enters into the sign of Cancer. The locations of the constellations are irrelevant; the "influence of the stars" isn't considered.

To reiterate: Western astrologers don't work with stars or constellations. Their focus is our solar system. They study the patterns of the planets and the moon as they pass through 12 zones defined by the relationship between the Earth and sun. Those zones have the same names as constellations because of a historical quirk, but they are unrelated to the constellations.

When Parke Kunkle triumphantly says, "There is no physical connection between constellations and personality traits," as if he has finally stamped out the delusions of us astrologers, he doesn't realize that we agree with him completely. We don't deal with constellations.

There haven't been many corrective articles in the mainstream press -- most publications have been content to let their un-fact-checked stories stand as if they were gospel -- but the New York Times and the Daily Beast did have the journalistic integrity to make a stab.

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You might also want to check these corrective stories in which I'm quoted:
New York Times
The Daily Beast

My astrological colleague Eric Francis has a cogent response, too.

 
 

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