The discipline of predicting the future and understanding yourself better based on the position of the stars, both now and when you were born. People who want to believe in this rely on proof in the form of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence.
People think that there are 12 zodiac signs. These signs come from the sun traversing the solar ecliptic. So, if you followed old Sol's path along the ecliptic, it would pass through Taurus, Gemini, and all of the other friendly constellations. Unfortunately, the ecliptic also passes through Ophicus for two weeks in December. In actuality, there should be 13 zodiac signs, but 13 was an unlucky number. Therefore, it was conveniently ignored.

Another item that causes problems with the zodiac/astrology equation is it was created thousands of years ago. Polaris, or our present day aptly-named North Star, was not the north star then. The star that was relatively fixed in 4500B.C. was Alpha Draconis, which also throws off all of the calculations. In the year 7500A.D., Alpha Cephi will be our 'north star'. Again, it was conveniently ignored.

Some folks truly believe in astrology, and I say that's a fine thing. While I don't believe in it (and find it mildly entertaining), if folks wish to believe in such a concept, it's a question of faith.

Astrology is a sort of pseudo-religion popular among hippies and drug addicts. It has something to do with the stars, but for the most part believers think that the month in which you are born determines everything about you, including your personality and behavior. They also seem to believe that everyone born in the same month will have the same future. I don't believe in astrology. I think it's a bunch of bullshit, myself. Still, if people want to believe in it they're free to do so. Some people who believe in astrology constantly piss me off though. Many of them are constantly trying to evangelize me. They attempt to analyze me and tell me how to live my life based entirely around the day I was born. They make vague assumptions about my personality and if they happen to guess correctly they congratulate themselves and try and use it as an example of the power of astrology. It doesn't matter how many times I denounce it to these people; they continue to try and convert me.

The evangelism doesn't bother me that much though. The thing that annoys me the most is how many people who believe in astrology will try and justify their unruly behavior by saying that their sign makes them act that way. I have a friend who avidly believes in astrology. This friend is a very loud, obnoxious, juvenile person. I am constantly asking him to "shut the hell up" or "cut that the hell out". Every time I ask him to stop being annoying he simply replies "I'm a Virgo" and continues to act like a moron. So basically he thinks that anyone born between August 24 and September 22 has a right to annoy other people? It's gotten so bad that some of my other friends claim to be an "honorary Virgo" when they are being annoying.

Another example: One of my other friends is a teacher. He teaches third grade at a local elementary school. When he isn't teaching school he is smoking weed or drinking. He is also working on making a documentary film about sex or hookers or something like that. One time we were drinking some of his home made alcohol and he told me about his film project. He was telling me that the previous weekend he had interviewed a stripper for his film. I asked him, "And you teach little kids, right?” His response was "I'm a Gemini."

In ancient times, astrology and the zodiac were used as a symbolic representation of the human being's microcosmos The reason why there are 12 zodiac signs, is because each sign represents one of the twelve fundamental forces working in the microcosmos.

To every sign on the zodiac 30 degees of the zodiacal circle were assigned, which were divided into groups of 10 degrees. To every group of ten, another constellation outside the zodiac was linked. This gives a total of 12 + 3 * 12 = 48. So in those times, there were only 48 constellations , while there are more now, and a lot of visible stars were not part of any constellation. This was because the constellations mainly served a symbolic purpose in connection to the theories on the microcosmos, rahter than help create some kind of random order in the galaxy.

The Sun was one of the most important bodies in astrology. Added up to the afore mentioned 48, we get 49. This is the product of seven and 7, i.e. the holy number squared. Seven is the number of main chakras, the points of psychic energy in the human body. (see also The Seven Chakras)

Of course modern day pop-astrology has got nothing to do with all this.

(I feel like most of my writeups start this way, but) I was a really odd child. I had a little bit too much fantasy in my book-diet, and by the time I was ten had read everything I could find on crystals, Tarot, ghostbusting, the occult, witch trials, the Loch Ness monster, palm reading... and Astrology. Being (paradoxically enough) a scientifically-minded ten year old, Astrology was my favorite subject out of the above. Contrary to popular belief, Astrology is more than the lame and obviously incorrect "horoscopes" in newspapers and magazines or what sun sign you are. The position of the ALL planets (in our solar system anyway) and their relationships at your exact time of birth are what matter to an individual. These are charted in a true horoscope, which is a circular chart divided up like a pie, which helps one keep track of such statistics. When an entire horoscope is calculated, the reading is extremely detailed, not just three sentences like in a magazine. Believe it or not, there is A LOT of math involved in this process. Trig, mainly. I taught myself how to use angles before the rest of my class even touched on it, just so I could delve deeper into this subject.

Now I am an Atheist who prides herself on scorning superstition, and I still consult a horoscope or two from time to time. How do I reconcile that one, you ask? I think of it like a psychological tool, like a Rorscach test. I feel that way about most things: astrology, life, and especially literature. It doesn't matter what the author was trying to say; what matters is what you get out of it. Do I think astrology is objectively accurate? No, of course not. It's a tool for understanding your own personality and that of others. You can take the information you get, or leave it. It's just a starting point when you're getting to know someone, or a fun party game where you discuss how right (or wrong) it is. It doesn't matter if it's correct or what your future is, because a person is not only a product of the stars ( literally), but a product of genetics and environment and we've got souls too, if you believe in that. Astrology shouldn't be treated fatalistically, or like a religion, but as a tool for the curious or those stuck with a tough decision. It helps you think and consider. No more, no less.

It just takes a healthy attitude. It may seem superstitious, but until you learn about it and consider all viewpoints, it's not fair to decide that it's ridiculous. Astrology is a tool to be considered and enjoyed, but it also shouldn't be a way of life. Balance, my friends. Balance.

If you're interested in Astrology, check out The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. At your public library, it will be somewhere in the 100s. Its title speaks the absolute truth.

How could any reasonable thinking human being believe in Astrology?  Let me tell you how.

First let us begin with what astrology is not.  Astrology is not the horoscope books that you pick up up at the grocery store by the check lines.  No reasonable person could believe in those, indeed.  Medieval and Renaissance astrology was based on a model of the universe that differs significantly from our own.

Let us begin with the proof: How can the planets in their celestial orbit influence life on Earth?  Early astrologers had plenty of reason to believe that they did.  Let us go over a few fairly self-evident proofs that would have established strong evidence at the time.

1) The Moon and Sun Affect the Tides.

In the absence of Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation and the general Theory of Gravity Medieval and Renaissance sailors were left attempting to describe a mechanism of influence based only on observation.  Although they did not have access to these more modern scientific ideas, they were still clever mathematicians and were able to fairly precisely model the relationship between the positions of the Sun and Moon in the sky and the tides.  They had solid proof of influence and were left with a model lacking a mechanism.

2) The Moon and Sun emit light.

In the absence of the Cartesian Theory of light, Newton's Corpuscular (or particle) theory of light, and modern wave-particle duality as explanations for the phenomenon Medieval and Renaissance Astrologers were left only with the clear observation that the Sun and Moon in the sky were able to produce the same effect of illumination that fire did, but did so eternally and without consuming fuel.  This implied that the emission of light was an innate quality of these two bodies, as well as all other planets and stars.  Certainly modern astrology critics will not disagree that distant stars affect us by shedding light upon us from across the galaxy.

3) When the Sun is in Scorpio Pumpkins, yams, and other gourds ripen.

Every year at harvest time, the Sun is in Scorpio.  This occurs in late October and early November.  This is coincedence in its purest form, as these two events always coincided with perfect reliability.  A farmer could look to the night sky just as easily as he could look to the seasons to determine how far away the harvest was.  When seen in light of of the previous two examples there was a strong and, actually, quite compelling reason to believe that this relationship was causal.

4) Elemental Sphere Theory.

As a response to these, and countless other seasonal, monthly, or daily events that coincided with specific astrological events, Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance scholars developed a working model of the universe.  According to their model the universe was composed of five spheres.  The first four spheres were the elemental spheres.  In order from lowest to highest they were: The sphere of Earth, the Sphere of Water, the Sphere of Air, and the Sphere of Fire.  The fifth Sphere was the Aether, which composed the planets and stars.

These elements were in this order for a specific reason.  Each sphere naturally flowed to its position in the hierarchy like differently weighted liquids in a glass.  As such Earth sinks the lowest and is the heaviest.  Next is water, which also falls downward unless there is earth below it.  The third, Air, will rise from beneath water to its rightful position above these first two.  the last, fire, will attempt to rise in all circumstance.  Left to their own devices, over time, there elements would return to their natural states as a series of perfectly concentric spheres.  This is, in a sense, an early precursor to the idea of entropy.

As a model for the observable world this theory served mankind quite well.  It provided a causal explanation for observed phenomena and even accurately predicted the behavior of other materials.  This explains the process of erosion, by which rigid structures composed of Earth will, over time, smooth, flatten, crumble and return to their natural place below the the spheres of air and water.  it also explains precipitation and the flow of water downhill, as the matter descending from the sphere of water will naturally return to the lowest point it can so that it will rest below air.  it even explains why thin balloon-like objects (paper zeppelin toys, in this example) rise when held over a flame, as the trapped essence of fire carries them above the sphere of air.

5) Missing links.

With so much seeming evidence stacked in their favor, astrologers began looking for the causal relationships between other celestial bodies and the world below.  It is in this arena that the more dubious claims of astrology were made.  As Astrologers theorized that, if humans were composed of the elements as well, then the planets should affect them just as the affect the temperature, season, or tides.  Thus was born the personal horoscope.  there is no good reason why, given their model of reality, this would nto be true.  The astrologers who practiced this enjoyed a short popularity, but the unreliability of their predictions was well known even in the Middle Ages.  Serious astrologers did not respect them, and it is from the divide that the difference between modern "astronomy" and "astrology" is born.

Modern contempt for medieval astrology is little more than anachronism.  We hold against men living in the 1100's the ignorance of Copernicus' Heliocentric Model of the Universe (which has itself been superseded, as we no longer believe that the Sun is the center of the universe either).  We blame them for the lack of understanding of atomic theory, the wave-particle duality of light, and myriad other scientific discoveries.  This is especially ironic because, in the absence of these theories it is these very philosophers, astrologists, astronomers, and mathematicians who worked, studied, experimented, and ultimately invented these very ideas that would shape modern science and rationalism.

To fall for the little horoscope book at the check-lane, however, is to be duped by millennia-old pseudo-science with no foundation in observational evidence, leaving you little better than the czars of Russia, enchanted by Rasputin as they fell from power, or the petty kings of France who squandered their patronage on Nostradamus.  Astrology was only ever intended to predict the seasonal, and explain the mechanisms of the natural world in the best terms available at the time.

As*trol"o*gy (#), n. [F. astrologie, L. astrologia, fr. Gr. , fr. astronomer, astrologer; star + discourse, to speak. See Star.]

In its etymological signification, the science of the stars; among the ancients, synonymous with astronomy; subsequently, the art of judging of the influences of the stars upon human affairs, and of foretelling events by their position and aspects.

Astrology was much in vogue during the Middle Ages, and became the parent of modern astronomy, as alchemy did of chemistry. It was divided into two kinds: judicial astrology, which assumed to foretell the fate and acts of nations and individuals, and natural astrology, which undertook to predict events of inanimate nature, such as changes of the weather, etc.


© Webster 1913.

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