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In Defense of Astrology



In Defense of Astrology

My friend asked me the other day if I believe in “that stuff”. So I’m going to write about it.

Here’s astrology in a nutshell.

Astrology is about rhythm

The Catholic Church’s various calendar systems: whack (Julian and Gregorian). The months: whack. Sept/Oct/Nov/Dec are latin prefixes for 7, 8, 9, and 10 but represent the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th month. Jan 1st is such a meaningless time to start the year. The AD/BC year system: whack. Tracking the passage of time “since an event in the past” like “the birth of Christ” is both honorary and: whack. The astrological horoscope: tight as fuck.

What is a horoscope? A horoscope is a visual timestamp composed of the relative positions of the planets to the Sun overlaid on “the zodiac”. For any given moment of time there exists a unique horoscope that won’t repeat again until our sun goes cold. These unique celestial timestamps are verifiable by an individual and don’t have to be dictated by any central organization, like the Papal Authority.

Constructing a horoscope

The horoscope shows the planets relative to the sun on a circle of 12 divisions. It has its roots in the Babylonian Calendar and its precursers. It’s no surprise that Astrology also has its roots in Mesopatamia.

For starters, the sun has four well-defined and predictable events that determine the changing of the seasons:

  • Spring: Vernal Equinox
  • Summer: Summer Solstice
  • Fall: Autumnal Equinox
  • Winder: Winter Solstice

Equinoxes are the events when the sun is directly above the equator and day and night are about the same length.

Solstices are the events when the sun is farthest north or south of the equator. Fun fact, solstices are how we get the names for the latitudes called Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn at +/- 23.26. Those are the latitudes where the Sun “reverses direction”.

Since this patterns repeats every year, we can think of the seasons as a rhythm. So we divide a circle into four, one quadrant for each season. Then we divide each quadrant into three even divisions of time. This makes 12 divisions of the “time pie”. Each of these slices is represented by a sign of the zodiac (or ecliptical band of 12 constellations, more on this later).

We can get the subdivisions as follows in 2024, for example:

  • The vernal equinox takes place: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 03:06 UTC.
  • The summer solstice takes place: Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 20:51 UTC
const equinox = new Date('2024-03-20T03:06:00Z') 
const solstice = new Date('2024-06-20T20:51:00Z') 
const timeDelta = solstice - equinox 
const third = timeDelta/3 
new Date(equinox.getTime() + timeDelta )

2024-03-20T03:06:00Z <- Equinox
2024-06-20T20:51:00Z <- Solstice
8012700000 ms
Each division is 2670900000 ms

Aries starts on the Vernal Equinox. 
Taurus starts Fri Apr 19 2024 18:01:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Gemini starts Mon May 20 2024 15:56:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Cancer starts on the Summer Solstice

Note that I like to say the zodiac segment “starts”, I like this language because it’s more truthful than saying “the Sun is in Capricorn” or something. The sun drives the zodiac, everything is relative to the sun and the season.

Other planets are plopped onto the horoscope based on their position relative to the Sun. This means that the inner planets mercury and Venus will always be somewhere near the Sun.

When the moon is full, it is reflecting the sun on the other side of Earth, so a full moon is found on the opposite side of the sun in a horoscope. So if you memorize the zodiac, you’ll know that when the sun is in Virgo (because it’s August 24), then a First quarter moon will be in Sagittarius.

Historical Nomenclature

Now that we’ve chopped up the zodiac into 12 divisions. We give them a name. This is the part that throws off a lot of people. The names we give each division is the name of a constellation along the ecliptic plane. Science minded people generally throw hands at this point. Because when the vernal equinox happens, which in astrological terms we say “the sun is entering Aries”, the Sun is actually mores aligned with the astronomically observable Aquarius constellation. (This is why people say we are in the Age of Aquarius).

We say spring starts in the sign of Aries (around March 20th) and call it the first sign of the zodiac. Fun fact: the seventh sign of the zodiac is Libra which starts around September 20th (SEVENTH SIGN === SEPTember), etc… Sooo much more meaning to time than the Catholic calendars.

For now, keep in mind that what we know as the system of “Western Tropical Astrology” comes from Mesopotamia about 4000 years ago, when the sun was actually in front of the Aries astronomical constellation. Nomenclature sticks around. (This drift is caused by a phenomenon called precession).

So astrology is more about time than planets having the backdrop of a constellation.

As an aside, imagine going back 4000 years ago. Who drew lines between the brightest stars in the sky and said this one looks like a bull and this one looks like a sea goat? I don’t think ANY of the constellations look like the image they’ve been given. Perhaps the stargazers of old gave these symbolic images to groupings of the stars to reflect characteristics found on Earth among humans during a given seasonal division.

A point in time is most accurately and uniquely defined as the relative position of celestial bodies to each other. These relative positions are most easily inferred from a geocentric point of view in the form of a horoscope.

Time is rhythm. Time is the night and day cycle, the lunar cycle, the cycle of seaonal changes. Time is the rhythm of “mercury retrogrades” and “saturn returns”. These are all observable cyclical events that we’ve given/observed meaning behind.

Geocentrism vs Heliocentrism

I abhor when teachers instruct that humans once unilaterally believed the Sun revolved around The Earth until this guy in the 1500s made a world-shattering discovery. Copernicus didn’t “discover” that the sun revolved around the Sun. Humans weren’t living in a dark-age of misbelief for the previous millenia.

Heliocentrism is practical mostly only from a physics perspective.

Geocentrism is practical from a time and navigation perspective.

Both are valid models that accurately represent their respective viewpoints. To discard the geocentric point of view today and call it “wrong” is ignorant.

I believe that the geocentric model should still be taught in schools (alongside the philisophical topic of subjectivism).

Otherwise kids are left unappreciative of the divine nature of measuring “time” via the planets. Nihilistic and atheist. How beautiful that the Sun and Moon are both the same size from our perspective. How beautiful that the year is approximately 12 moon cycles. How beautiful that all of the planets are on the same plane in space. How fascinating it is to try and give meaning to the position of the planets.

Retrograde motion

You’ve probably heard jokes about Mercury being in Gatorade. Let me explain what’s going on.

Most of the time, planets are moving clockwise on the zodiac. But every once in a while, the Sun is in between Earth and the planet of interest. This planet is still heliocentrically orbiting the sun, but it appears to be moving backwards in the night in comparison to the the other planets.

Mercury, for instance and most commonly mentioned, for a period of time appears to “stand still on the zodiac”, called stationing retrograde. Then it starts traveling behind the sun which moves it counterclockwise on the astrological zodiac. Then it stations direct again before traveling in front of the sun and moves clockwise on the zodiac.

Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days. This means about half the time it is stationed or traveling in “retrograde motion”. So there are 4 retrogrades every year for about 30 days each (but there’s a weird stationing period that some astrologers will call attention to for 7 days on either end of the retrograde).

The moon will never have retrograde motion since it orbits Earth.

The rest of the planets have retrograde motion. Certain astrologers like to give a lot of meaning to these periods. I think it’s interesting to observer astrological phenomena like retrogrades and reflect on what I’m experiencing in my life. It certainly seems that Mercury in retrograde tends to correlate with old friends and past lovers reaching out to me.

Rhythms and Meaning

Up to now, I’ve described how to create a horoscope. The interpretation of the horoscope is the “pseudoscience” part of things. I think it’s incredible how oldest piece of literature we have on Astrology, Ptolemy’s Tetrabilos compares the “science” of astrology to that of a seasoned ocean sailor can predict a storm based on the position of the planets. It’s not a hard science, but somehow sailors who spend their life navigating by the stars are able to make inferences on the weather patterns that tend to come true. Ptolemy also explains that astrology can NEVER be as proper science because a horoscope is unique and no specific configuration of celestial bodies will ever occur again. Science requires controlled and repeatable experimentation.

So, here’s my bit on astrological interpretation.

Environmental impressions on a newborn’s neural circuitry are tremendously potent for establishing patterns in behavior. A newborn is not born knowing about the seasons. In Wisconsin, I believe there are significant psychological differences between someone born in the middle of Winter and someone born in the middle of Summer.

Me and fellow Taureans were born at a fruitful time of abundance. Earth had just sprung back to life after Winter. The shock every Taurean 6 month old experiences when the leaves fall off the tree (in Scorpio, the zodiac sign associated with DEATH) must have been horrifying. Because babies don’t know that Earth comes back to life. Now I have private speculations about how this plays out in my 29 year old psyche.

As a though experiment, take a look at every zodiac sign’s traditional interpretations, strengths, weaknesses, and stereotypes through that lens of Earthly conditions and experiencing Earth’s first cycle of seasons through an baby’s eyes. I, personally, have found it to evoke certain truths and explanations that I won’t go into. I imagine that there will be a tremendous amount of scientific evidence found to back this up.

Ignoring seasonal-climate related changes. We humans have done an excellent job creating traditions (or artificial rhythms of time). Most schools start around September or October (Libra) and have a month off late December to late January (Sagittarius) and then have off for the Summer months. In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he writes about how some kids are born athletes and other’s aren’t. This is mostly determined by the fact that some kids are more developed than other’s because there were the oldest in their grade. September is the general birth month for the oldest kids in a class. Some Virgos… All Libras. A libra will be the oldest kid in their class. Socially competent Libras who get to celebrate their birthday first every year when the kids get back together.

These small yet significant differences between people depending on when they were born most certainly play some role on their personality.

What about the Moon, Venus/Mars compatibility, Saturn returns, and Mercury in Retrograde

I don’t really have too much to write about the other planets. I take astrological writings on interpretations with a grain of salt. I think it’s worth investigating and contemplating what sort of patterns take place during the different time spans measured by these planets are. Economic, generational, war/peace, governmental churn, educational periods, etc.,

I think the Moon is capable of moving an unfathomable amount of water on a daily basis via the tidal patterns, not to mention the few nights a month where you can hike without a flashlight during the full moon.

It’s hard to imagine that the other massive balls of elements in space don’t also have a similar cyclical impact on Earth in some way be it the wind, the precipitation, or excitement of electrons./

What about Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and… Chiron?

Uranus and the outer planets weren’t discovered or observed until the 18th century.

I think putting any credence on interpretations of placements of these planets should be taken with a grain of salt. First, the outer planets have long.

I think the way humans operate is largely cyclical across many different timespans. We have largely arbitrary time cycles that aren’t tied to any particular celestial object. We have a 7 day week. We have 60 seconds in a minute. We have 60 minutes in an hour. 24 hours a day. A 4 year cycle for the Olympics and presidential elections. Et cetera.

I think all sorts of patterns can be found on any given time duration. You can explore the topic of Uranian Astrology to get more of an idea on these lesser studied time cycles.