"Astrology is an Aesthetic Affront"
Over the past two thousand years, we have learned a staggering amount about the Universe around us. We've found it to be more beautiful, more mystifying and far grander than we ever imagined. My chief complaint with astrology is simply that it ignores all of that.
Thousands of years ago, with no telescopes, space probes or Mars rovers, the planets were just points of light in the sky. 'What are they?', people wondered. Could their arcane movements be a kind of writing on the celestial sphere? The stargazers of that era weren't wrong to wonder, but we now know that Mars is not a symbol. It's another world, just like the Earth (only somewhat chillier). Despite being named after the Roman god of war, it's actually the most hospitable planet we know of apart from the Earth (Venus vies with Io for least pleasant). You could go and stand on Mars, and to you the Earth would be a blue star in the sky. Clouds would pass overhead (as would two moons), a feeble wind would push against you, your feet would sink into a magnetic soil with the texture of wet sand.
Astrology presents itself as a means to achieving awareness of the Universe, but in fact it teaches nothing that is supported by evidence, and instead reduces glorious, complex, mysterious worlds to nothing more than symbols. I can't help but see it as something sinister, a spectre seeking out people who look at the night sky and wonder, and palming them off with a cheap, two-dimensional forgery.
My Sign is Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler
Well, no, it isn't. But it would have been if I'd been born a couple of weeks later. One of those things that we've learned about the Universe in the last two thousand years is that we are not at the centre of it. This certainly hints that the Heavens are not merely a blanket of symbols there for our edification – that in fact, most of the Universe has nothing to do with us. It also leads to understanding a few things which directly affect the way astrology is (or should be, rather) practised.
As the Earth moves around the sun, the axis on which it rotates is at an angle to the plane that the Earth moves through (known as the ecliptic). This angle is the cause of the Earth's seasons. Due to a number of factors (the rotation of the sun on its own axis, the pull of the moon) the Earth's rotational axis also moves in a circle. This is known as precession, and it was probably first figured out by an ancient Greek guy called Hipparchus. Ptolemy is another ancient Greek guy, perhaps best known for coming up with (at the time, quite compelling) reasons supporting the idea that the Earth did not move around the sun, and for coming up with the (much too small) estimate of the Earth's circumference used by Columbus when he planned to sail right round it. Despite that, he was actually a very proficient astronomer, being aware of all sorts of aspects of the Heavens that are ignored by modern astrologers – one obvious example being the precession of the Earth's axis (Ptolemy would have considered it to be a precession of the celestial sphere), as noted above.
Because of this precession, the signs that the sun passes through steadily change over thousands of years. And, of course, the dates for your sign as given in the newspaper horoscope are those for two thousand years ago. Presumably astrologers had a real blow-out party back then and insist on partying like it's 99AD – or 140AD, more precisely, as it is poor Ptolemy's table of dates that astrologers use.
So, if I had been born on the 21st of November 140, I would be a Scorpio. However, I was in fact born on the 21st November 1983, and so am a Libra. Here's the actual table of dates for the 21st Century. If you really, really feel that your (old) sign fits you perfectly, you may be a little disturbed to discover how well you have fooled yourself. Please don't shoot the messenger.
|Pisces||March 14 - April 19|
|Aries||April 20 - May 15|
|Taurus||May 16 - June 21|
|Gemini||June 22 - July 21|
|Cancer||July 22 - August 10|
|Leo||August 11 - September 17|
|Virgo||September 18 - October 31|
|Libra||November 1 - November 24|
|Scorpius||November 25 - November 30|
|Ophiuchus||December 1 - December 18|
|Sagittarius||December 19 - January 20|
|Capricornus||January 21 - February 16|
|Aquarius||February 17 - March 13|
Also, if you're Ophiuchus, consider yourself so very, very lucky! Now every time someone asks you what your sign is, you can let them in on a little piece of the Universe's beauty. The Earth moves - and the way it moves, moves as well!
What is your sign, really.
Bad Astronomy: Astrology