The first time the mystifying, possibly mystical, effects of astrology impacted my life was at a music festival about two decades ago;
“So, what sign are you?” she asked, lighting incense with the butt of her joint.
“Er, Libra,” I said, unbuttoning my shirt, “I think.”
That was a joke – we’re supposed to be indecisive – but it fell flat.
“Oh.” She looked up at me through kholed eyes.
“Taurus. We’re not compatible with Librans.”
Apparently I should have said Virgo, but hey. At least we Librans learn from our mistakes.
I made a silent vow to look more into the philosophy of the Zodiac. And now, 15 years later, I’ve finally gotten ’round to it. Is there any substance to those daily horoscopes in the paper? Should I consult star charts before making any further professional and romantic decisions? I resolved to find out.
Subsequent research (to avoid such contretemps in the future) into the minefield of birth signs, those enigmatic Zodiac symbols attributed to our time of birth, revealed astonishing complexity.
While commercially it’s a nightmare world inhabited almost exclusively by charlatans, blowhards, and ne’er-do-wells preying on the insecurities of the gullible and desperate, millions sign up for their horoscope reading every day. It’s a massive industry. And other cultures take it even more seriously than we do.
Astrology’s origins are shrouded in mystery. As far back as 10,000 years ago, the Sphinx in Egypt once had the head of a lion facing the point where Leo rose above the horizon. What’s bizarre is that the erosion on the sculpture can only have been explained by rainfall. Lots of it. It last rained that much in Gaza around the same time.
Could it be that the heavens didn’t want us dabbling in the realm of the divine? Or was it just a very early instance of El Niño?
So, what’s your sign?
In the west, the zodiac consists of twelve 30° divisions – “signs” – of celestial longitude used in astrology and astronomy. It’s centered upon the ecliptic, that is, the visible path of the sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year.
The paths of the moon and visible planets also remain close to the ecliptic, within the belt of the zodiac, which extends 8-9° north or south of the ecliptic. Because the divisions are mathematically regular, they do not correspond exactly to the boundaries of the twelve constellations after which they are named.
… and so forth. Yeah, like I said. It’s complicated. Try getting your head around precession.
Essential guide to the signs of the Zodiac
In case you should ever find yourself in a tent with a Taurus, here’s your quick-n-dirty guide to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
- Aries: Short-tempered and impulsive. Like Tigger on meth.
- Taurus: Placid. Stable. Yawn. But wait. Resentful and psychotic. Behind you. Stabby.
- Gemini: Lively, nervous, speculative. Exhausting. Both of them.
- Cancer: Imaginative, cautious, moody, insecure. Restraining orders waiting to happen.
- Leo: Generous, warm-hearted, broad-minded, and impetuously intolerant. Call me.
- Virgo: Modest. Shy. Practical. Perfectionist. Conservative. Don’t call me.
- Libra: Well. Just perfect. Honest, that’s what it says: “Librans are wonderful people.” Oh… Librarians. Damn.
- Scorpio: Has anyone actually met one? Do they exist? No one has sex in February, so there aren’t many of them around. They’re jealous. Forceful. Apparently.
- Sagittarius: They sound quite cool. Optimistic and philosophical. Oxymoronic, but there you go.
- Capricorn: Practical, patient, and fatalistic. Sigh.
- Aquarius: Overly friendly, perverse, contrary, and unpredictable. Like most of my ex-fiancés.
- Pisces: Sensitive, other worldly, out-there, and gullible. Like I wish they’d been.
Obviously, there’s much, much more to it all than just character traits, with almost infinite other variables to consider. Depending on your rising signs, plus your exact time and place of birth… it could all be cobblers.
But it does often sound familiar, no? It resonates. And a proper reading from, say, Equinox in Covent Garden, is freaky.
What’s science got to do with it?
Interestingly, a 1000-yard-stare’d hippie in Kathmandu once offered me a possible physical, scientific explanation of it all. It went something like this:
As we know the moon, famously, pulls water – H2O – towards it. You know, the tides and all. That leads to more neuroelectrical activity in the brain due to extra conductivity from the extra water in your head. Basically, it means there’s more going on. We’re more scatty. Batty. Hence the word, “lunatic.” Dogs go bonkers and insomnia reigns.
Now. It’s possible that other celestial bodies also attract other compounds to the brain, potentially setting a chemical matrix in our brains at the time of our birth. Mars – a.k.a. the Roman God of War – might, for example, attract chemicals that make us more punchy. More goddamn-hell-yeah. Venus perhaps attracts chemical compounds that make us more luuurvin’, more Barry-White-baby. You get me? The various relative positions setting our course, subtly and yet profoundly.
And as they swing about on their various a-lilting and a-tilting orbits, that cocktail is further influenced on a day-to-day basis. Makes sense, no?
Well, something has to, beyond it just being a leap of faith.
Now then. Cross my palm with silver. Or I’ll set you up with a Virgo.