I Can Explain… The New Horoscopes

First appeared in Retirement News Weekly on February 11, 2011

For believers, horoscopes can define identity, personality, love connections, and future prospects. And even for non-believers, one can’t deny the effect that these signs have on people who perceive them as having meaning. So when one community college professor said that our system of horoscopes was wrong and Leos are actually Cancers, the internet exploded with stories. But was the professor right? Are the horoscopes wrong? And should we care? Don’t go get that Taurus tattoo removed, quite yet! I can explain!

It was a community college professor named Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society that started all the drama (why you’d believe someone named Kunkle is beyond me). Even though he does not believe in horoscopes personally, he pointed out in an interview that the constellations the sun was in 3000 years ago, when horoscopes were created, are not the constellations the sun is in now. This is a result of Earth’s shifty axis (shifty indeed). The result is a new constellation named Ophiuchus (which is a dude with a snake) being behind the sun for part of the year and thus he exists as a modern 13th sign. The rest are shifted accordingly.

Pretty dramatic revelation, right?

Not so much. Despite the hype, this actually isn’t news… it’s not new anyway. We’ve known for a long time (a little over 2000 years). The thing is, there are two types of astrology; there’s classical tropical astrology and sidereel astrology. Kunkle (or Uncle Kunkle as I like to call him) was right. That’s sidereel astrology and if you’re Hindu and follow that sign system, your sign has indeed changed. But it turns out us Westerners tend to use tropical astrology, which basis its sign system on the position of the Earth, sun, and planets of our solar system; not constellations at all.

In defence of the non-believing, instigating Kunkle: he never said there should be 13 horoscopes or that horoscopes should change. He just pointed out where the sun fell and let believers blow it out of proportion.

Now, I’m not a believer. I also wasn’t significantly affected by this change as in either system I’m a Cancer. But what I will say is this: we’re all looking for something to define us… some identity external to ourselves. We look for someway to know what our future holds so that we can we be prepared; so that we can understand this journey we’re on. For those who are serious about horoscopes and astrology that’s what the system offers; a glimpse into an unknowable future and a sense of place along the way. And for the rest, it’s just fun to read the twelve potential futures a newspaper columnist crafted for us and try to find our own place in the newsprint.

Either way, let’s agree that horoscopes offers us each a little something and stop bickering over the specifics. And if you want to know how to pronounce ‘Ophiuchus,’ well… I can explain!

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