I know I promised that the next installment of Naked Eye Astronomy would be about unicorns, but y’all have indulged me so far. Please grant me this one birthday gift. Let me talk about the zodiac today. The zodiac is simply the twelve constellations through which the sun appears to move during the tropical year. Nothing more. Nothing less. I’m going to try not to sound rantish, but you see where this is going.
I sometimes write about astronomy. The stars, planets, comets, asteroids, planetoids, and all things astronomical have fascinated me since I was a child. I watched Apollo 11 land on the moon when I was 6 and the memory is as clear today as it was in 1969. I turned my childhood enthrallment into a hobby, amateur astronomy. I don’t want to put down anyone’s hobby, but astronomy is not astrology. Astronomy is a scientific approach to studying the heavens. Astrology is at best a funny, back page newspaper filler. At worst, astrology is a giant waste of time.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I probably insulted some true believer out there. Someone will probably want to argue/debate the merits of astrology with me. Let me save you the trouble…don’t bother. It’s a crock. A big steaming crock of crap. I wrote an article about that topic a long time ago and I’m kicking myself for not leaning on one point more heavily. I touched on it under the heading “Stuck in the past” in the article, Debunking Astrology: Myth in the Modern Era. What is the one, biggest, glaring, conspicuous reason astrology is so very, very bogus? axial precession.
It hit me again today like the blazing sun in my astronomy software, Stellarium. I’m a Sagittarius who was born a Capricorn. Four thousand years of axial precession have bumped all the astrological signs back one month. The sun won’t even enter Capricornus until the 18th of January 2009. As it is today, as it was on my birthday, the sun is squarely in Sagittarius.
Those moldy Babylonians did a great job mapping out the sky and spinning some fanciful tales, but they didn’t factor in axial precession. No one since has bothered to adjust the astrological houses. No one bothers to point to all the fancy birth charts and say, “Um…no. The sun is in the wrong house for me to be a Capricorn.”
I’m sorry if that offends someone, but axial precession is a fact. I don’t care if you believe in God or gods or fate or karma. I don’t care if you think the flying spaghetti monster in the sky directs your daily footsteps. What snaps my garters is when people take something simple like gravity, twist it into some all-encompassing system, and try to relieve their minds of personal responsibility.
Just so we’re clear: 4,000 years ago astronomy helped plant crops. Then some joker got the idea that crop fertility equals human fertility and tried to apply that fancy new calendar to babies. Astronomy is not astrology. Stars are giant fusion reactors and do not control our fates. Planets follow Newtonian laws and not the laws of Marduk.
I was conceived under a “Do Not Disturb” sign and born under a stop sign. So happy birthday to me. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Consider that your annual sacrifice…er…present.