What’s Your Sign?

November 29, 2010

How do those newspaper horoscope writers know so much about you? Well, it could be that people  tend to identify with general and vague personality descriptions. And that people tend to accept general descriptions more frequently when they are told they are individualized, e.g. tied to their astrological sign. Or maybe there is more to it…

People notice patterns: When the sun is at a high angle in the sky, it is summer; at a low angle, it is winter. Watching the sun can provide information about when the snows will melt, when is a good time to sow crops, to reap your harvest, to go hunting. Looking at the changing patterns of stars in the night can also mark the progress of the seasons. Ocean tides are linked to the phases of the moon. The lunar cycle is similar in length to the female cycle.

The ancients might have wondered about cause and effect, asking if heavenly bodies actually caused things to happen on earth (and with respect to the seasons and tides, the sun and the moon certainly did and do). But what about other things like health, fertility, friendships, success in negotiations or love?

Astrology has been used to make predictions since ancient times, at least as far back as the city states of Sumeria (currently Iraq) in 3000 BC. It probably developed hand-in-hand with astronomy.

After several invasions, the Sumerians (after interbreeding with the invaders) became the Babylonians. The Babylonians developed the 360 degree zodiac and divided it into twelve parts of 30 degrees each, with each part named after the major constellation located in that part. They could also trace the movement of the then-visible planets through the constellations and predict eclipses.

Over time there were various other invasions of Sumeria/Babylon and eventually along came the Greeks led by that Great Greek, Alexander. The Greeks took the astrological/astronomical knowledge of the region and carried it to India (establishing the basis for Eastern Astrology) and then back home, where they gave us the word “horoscope” (from the Greek horoscopos – “I watch that which is rising”)

The “rising” referred to is that part of the zodiac – now called the “ascendant” – which is on the eastern horizon on the date and at the place and time of birth of the person, business, nation, event, idea etc. for which an astrological prognostication is being sought. Astrology is concerned with the “rising” because, as astrology developed, the arrangement of the heavens at the time of birth became a major starting point for analysis.

Astrologers build “birth charts” taking into account the positions of the signs of the zodiac, the celestial “houses” (another 12 part slicing of the heavens ), the planets (which include the sun and the moon), and the apparent angular relationships among them. From the birth chart and such other factors as they deem appropriate astrologers are then able to provide an interpretation.

There are no hard and fast rules for interpretation and different astrologers can come to different conclusions (which of course leaves you free to develop your own!).

For a retirement activity, you might consider:

• Learning about your own birth chart and horoscope;
• Learning about those of people you care for and/or with whom you are in are in frequent contact;
• Learning about those of people you don’t care for (maybe there is a reason for the way they are);
• Learn to build birth charts and become a prognosticator yourself.

But is it real? Certainly light and lack thereof, warm and cold, gravity, magnetism and even sunspots are known to affect our lives. But Mars?

Michel Gauquelin and his wife Françoise studied the relationship between planetary positions at birth and human behavior (Michel and Françoise were both psychologists; he was also a statistician and she a demographer). Their research over a period of thirty years demonstrated a relationship between certain astrological principles and professions to a high degree of statistical validity. The most noted was the “Mars effect” which found that champion athletes tended to be born with Mars in a critical position. Other relationships were: scientists and doctors with Saturn, politicians with the moon, military types with Mars and actors and actresses with Jupiter.

I’m an Aquarius.  What’s your sign?

R. Kevin Price


© 2008-2010 R.K. Price