THE "HOOPLA" ABOUT OPHIUCHUS
(...or are Astrologers Ignorant about Astronomy?)

by Carole Devine


A few months ago, I got a rash of phone calls from clients asking about a national broadcast featuring British astronomer Jacqueline Mitton, who announced that Astrology was "inaccurate," because it did not take into account the precession of the Equinoxes caused by the Earth's "wobble" and the 13th sign named Ophiuchus. Every once in a while, some Astronomer makes a pronouncement about the precession, as though it is Earthshaking "news" and something that Astrologers must be overlooking! And several years ago, there was a book published called "Astrology 14," (I think) setting forth the proposition that there are 14 signs. Whenever these attacks occur, I am amazed that these paragons of erudition are so reckless as to show their ignorance of our field of expertise.

We actually do know that the signs have shifted about 23 degrees in the last 2,000 years, and we understand why. However, western Astrology is not based on the constellations. We measure the ecliptic from the Vernal Equinox point, making it zero degrees of Aries, and then dividing the ecliptic in 30-degree segments, which we call the signs. Two thousand years ago, they were named after the constellations against which they appeared to be at the time, but since our interpretations are mainly centered around our own solar system (the "star" in "astro"logy being our Sun, which is a star), the precession of the Equinoxes does not affect it.

Not all Astronomers are so stubborn as to believe that what we do is not worth looking into. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Eric Carlson of the Adler Planetarium as saying, "I have sympathy for her (Jacqueline Mitton) because that is what I used to believe. What a shock it was to me in grad school when I discovered astrologers had actually known all about shifting constellations. The real star background is irrelevant."

The saddest part of all this is our leaders in the field sent out a flurry of news releases explaining our side, but were not given the coverage accorded the illustrious Astronomer. This is how ignorance keeps being perpetuated, and we in the most fascinating art/science on Earth remain misunderstood.

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Copyright © 2000 Carole Devine. This article originally appeared in Cosmic Views.