Astrology – Science or Superstition?

Since the advent of “newspaper astrology”, any discussion on astrology begins with “What sign are you?” and then just boils down to generalizations on what qualities and characteristics a person has based on that sign. The “sign” discussed refers to the Sun sign, that is, the sign the Sun was in at the moment you were born. Anyone familiar with astronomy would know that it takes the Earth 365.25 days to orbit the Sun. In terms of astrology, that means that the sun is found in one of the twelve astrological signs for approximately 30 days. This then means that everyone born within that 30 day period would have the same Sun sign. Hence, the generalization involved when only discussing “newspaper astrology” – it really only discusses Sun signs. Considering most people’s exposure to astrology is only “newspaper astrology”, one understands the general public’s dismissal of astrology as a serious “science”.

“Newspaper astrology” is far from representative of the practice of astrology as a whole. It is far removed from what the medieval and renaissance astrologers practiced (traditional astrology). In actuality, astrology was and is a practice based on astronomical observations and mathematical calculations. Though, of course, modern astrologers don’t need to have a telescope to make the necessary observations for their astrological calculations – they can simply load up a computer program that simply makes the calculations for them based on an ephemeris. (An ephemeris is a compilation listing the planets and their movements in the sky). Both astrology and astronomy claim to be “the study of the stars”, and in the past the words were interchangeable. The difference between the two is simply how the information from that study is used. Astrology uses the information to determine the influence the “stars” have on human existence, collectively or individually. Granted astronomy could make that claim, but it concerns itself with more practical and tangible influences, such as “Is that comet going to hit Earth??” (Although, in the abstract, astronomy seeks to determine the beginnings of human existence and to understand how we came to be. In that sense, astronomy can be considered as another cosmology.)

Some of the first astronomical observations made that were considered important in terms of influencing human existence were solar and lunar eclipses and the cycle of the moon. The moon is inherently tied to eclipses in that a solar eclipse occurs during a new moon and a lunar eclipse occurs when there is a full moon. (This does not mean that there is solar eclipse every new moon or that there is a lunar eclipse every full moon. An eclipse properly occurs when the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth line up. A new moon and full moon will occur without the Earth lining up with the Sun and the Moon.) The influence of the new moon, full moon, solar eclipse, and lunar eclipse on human existence have been observed over the millenia such that astrologers can now predict the effects these will have on various individuals or humanity as a whole. Such is the basis for science – observation. Collectively over the past 4000 or more years (the Chinese and Egyptians have been observing the night sky since at least 2000 B.C. or thereabouts), there has been more than just a few observations made on the influence of the “heavens”. The vast amount of information and knowledge gathered and passed down over that many years can be analyzed – “heavenly” cycles and patterns can be noted. (For an interesting history of astrology, read David Ovason’s book The History of the Horoscope. You will not only learn about the history, but you will learn much about the fundamentals of astrology.)

Astrology uses the same mathematical calculations as astronomy in terms of determining movement of the planets. Longitude and latitude degrees are important in determining the precise position of a planet in the sky. (Ah yes, in case you were wondering why “planets” when astrology is the “study of the stars”. To the ancient astrologers, every light they saw in the night sky was considered to be a “star”. However, it appeared that some stars moved while others did not. The stars that moved were “wandering stars”, which is the etymology for the word “planet”. The stars that did not move were termed “fixed stars”, and you will hear that term used in modern astrology.) Precise time was important to astrologers because they would then determine which sign was rising over the horizon and at what degree. (“Sign” in astrology represents one of the twelve portions of the night sky where the beginning of the Aries portion is fixed to the spring equinox – the spring equinox being the exact moment when day and night are of equal length. The signs once were aligned with the constellations, but the constellations are not fixed to the spring equinox. Thus, you may hear some people talk about Aries being later in the year. This is irrelevant to the fact that the Aries portion of the sky is fixed to the spring equinox.) The sign rising over the horizon at the precise moment of someone’s birth is termed “rising sign” and to traditional astrologers was actually more significant than the Sun sign, which is made much of in “newspaper astrology” as discussed above. Such is the precision involved in traditional astrology and modern astrology if studied as seriously as the traditional astrologers.

Is astrology really superstition? Is it a true science? Perhaps it is simply the fact that astrology deals intimately with human existence that we do not wish to consider it science. After all, it is for many still a frightening thought to think that we are really subject to the will of the “heavens”.

We can blame “newspaper astrology” for the malaise that has befallen astrology in the past 100 years or so. Many may be fascinated by it, but yet not take it seriously. Then again, newspaper astrology has peaked the interest of many who would become your modern-day astrologer, taking astrology once again as a serious (scientific?) study, and sometimes eerily predicting events to happen. That being said, there is always something amusing about “newspaper astrology” – just realize that it’s not representative of astrology as a whole.

Cassandrah
Your local amateur astrologer
Brigid’s Flame

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