What’s Your Sign? Ophiuchus!

It’s not the first time I’ve written about the conjunction between astronomy and astrology–for a long time, they were considered to be essentially the same thing. The only reason to study the stars was to understand how they governed those born beneath them.  But I wasn’t expecting the current kerfuffle about NASA’s new zodiac.

A lovely astronomical clock in Exeter, UK

A lovely astronomical clock in Exeter, UK

The plane of the zodiac, or the ecliptic, is the space through which the earth moves on its orbit, such that different signs are ascendant (that is, rising in the east when someone is born) at a certain predictable time of year, and those signs, since Babylonian days have been considered significant.  Greco-Roman culture adopted this concept by the 4th century BC, giving the astrological signs their familiar names, which you can find in some newspaper columns to this very day.

However, NASA now tells us, the axis of the earth has shifted.  Not only does it mean you were probably not born under the sign you’ve always believed, but there’s a whole new sign:  Ophiucus, the serpent-bearer. Okay, when I heard about that, I kinda wished I were born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 and could proudly claim my serpents.  Alas, not so.  I’m curious to see if astrologers are going to pick up the new sign and run with it, giving advice to the serpent-bearers among us (like:  grasp them right behind the head.  If you get bitten, don’t suck out the venom. . .)

According to NASA, however, the Babylonians knew about Ophiucus, and decided to expel him as a 13th sign because it was hard enough to divide the sky (and the humans beneath it) into 12 slices, never mind 13.  So it turns out that this “new” zodiac, is actually just an older one that had been discarded as messy.  As above, so below.  Life is messy, why shouldn’t the zodiac be?  After all, this is organic life imposing our vision on stars that have been around for billions of years, oblivious to our very existence.  Of course, we want to reach out to claim them and tame them, turning them into reflections of our own stories.

Now, Ophiucus is rising once again!  But one suspects the Babylonians were not the only ones already in on the secret.  What about the snake-handling cults of Appalachia, who take literally Mark, chapter 16, Verses 17-18, saying that the believers shall “take up serpents”?  It must also be the sign of the Slytherins, which suggests to me that dark days are coming.  Fortunately, wiki-how gives clear, concise instructions on how to handle the snakes.  Now if they could just give us some advice about handling politicians. . .


About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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