Panic in the zodiac –
The Guardian, 30 Sept. 2016
Unflappable Libras suddenly felt cranky and creative. Diplomatic Geminis woke up patriotic. Sagittariuses didn’t know what to think. The Zodiac has a new order – or so people think – and left astrologers and astronomers oddly aligned, trying to calm people down.
“All my clients are freaking out,” said Shelley Ackerman, a New York-based astrologer and member of the American Federation of Astrologers. “It’s ridiculous.”
Ackerman’s clients lost their composure because of a Nasa blogpost about constellations that described a 13th sign, the snake-bearer Ophiuchus, devised by Babylonians about 3,000 years ago but left out of their 12-month calendar. Because Earth’s axis has slowly shifted over the centuries, shifting the perspective of the stars, Ophiuchus now spends more time aligned with the sun than before, a change noticed years ago.
Many saw their birthdays suddenly ticked backward one sign – potentially changing their whole identity.
The space agency tried to warn people not to read too much into the calendar or the many zodiacal constellations: “Astrology is something else. It’s not science.” But Inattentive news sites blamed Nasa or declared: “your life is a lie.” People panicked.
“Strangers are messaging astrologers, saying, ‘Please don’t tell me I’m Cancerian,’ or ‘For God’s sake, I’m not a Virgo,’” Ackerman said. “It’s really upsetting people.”
Jessica Adams, the astrologer for Cosmopolitan magazine in Australia, said she heard from “an avalanche of people worried that they were no longer a Leo and concerned that astrology is a fraud”.
“It’s disturbing a lot of people,” Arizona astrologer Salvador Russo said. “I think it’s aimed at discrediting astrology to prevent people from gaining wisdom and enlightenment.”
The astrologers said that they had spent days reassuring readers that their “sun signs”, linked to the seasons, had not changed. “Because the internet now is a viral creature,” Adams said, “with so many people putting out information without checking, this myth, which we’ve known about since the time of the ancient Greeks, seems to come up every five years on average.”
They said that Ophiuchus was not terribly important, and that people should not feel they had a “new” sign. “Signs are seasons and they don’t have anything to do with the stars,” said Joyce Van Horn, a San Francisco-based astrologer. “The constellations change – the seasons don’t.”
Adams agreed, saying: “The constellations are kind of like a decoration or a memory jogging device for astrologers of old. This constellation just doesn’t make sense. It’s a picture of a serpent.”
“I would not totally negate the presence of Opiphicush or however you say it,” Ackerman said, “or the mythology of that constellation, which has to do with healing and the bringing together of these disparate parties under the most dire of circumstances. I like that he’s making an appearance now because heaven knows we need that.”
The space agency also distanced itself from astrology. “Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light years away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth,” Nasa said.
Russo still saw dark forces at the space agency. “Don’t be fooled to think that astrology isn’t real or valuable,” he wrote on Facebook. “The 1% have been using it in secret for centuries. There’s evidence of this everywhere. We have entered the Age of Aquarius. It’s time for all of mankind to become wise to the stars.”
Others were more sanguine about the relationship between astrologers and skeptics. “What happened with the age of reason, which I think was pretty unreasonable, was anything intuitive or that wasn’t scientific – meaning measurable and repeatable – was thrown out,” Ackerman said.
“I certainly respect your science but for God’s sake stop being so rigid.”
Adams said that there are “endless examples” of correct astrological prophecies and gave two examples, her Brexit prediction and a 2012 panel prediction that Barack Obama would win that year’s election. “Mercury is still in retrograde, by the way,” she added.
When asked about similar predictions by pollsters, she conceded that astrologers have no monopoly on telling the future, well or poorly. “By the law of statistics, one astrologer somewhere in the world is going to get it right.”
The International Society for Astrological Research will convene in October to make its 2016 prediction. Adams predicted Hillary Clinton would win because of central gender issues: “Jupiter, the sign of growth and expansion, just moved into Libra, the sign of the scales, marriage, partnership.” Russo predicted Trump “by historic margins because Trump has Jupiter in Libra”.
“The real takeaway is how attached people are to their sun signs,” Ackerman said, adding that answering so many messages about it had become “frankly annoying”.
“There’s a whole thing on Snopes,” she said, referring to the fact-checking website.