Many people have a daily encounter with the twelve signs of the zodiac in the form of daily horoscopes. This celestial self-help column is the tired heir of the ancient cult of astrology: the belief that what goes on overhead in the sky influences what we do in our daily lives. The horoscopes usually provide very generic advice, good for any sign in any season. How can one go wrong with that? Along with this belief of being influenced by balls of rock and gas millions and billions of light years away, is a belief that we also live in certain "ages." And perhaps no particular age is better know that the one paid tribute to in the 60's musical "Hair" the famous "Age of Aquarius."
Precession and the Age of Aquarius
Before we go into what an "age" is, we have to point out a bit of a flaw in the astrological sense. My sign is Cancer, supposedly on my birthday, July 10th, the Sun resides in the stars of Cancer the Crab. Bzzzzzt! In fact, on July 10th, the Sun is nowhere near Cancer, it is lurking in Gemini, the Twins. What happened? It?s called precession.
When astrology had its birth pangs, thousands of years ago with the Babylonians, the sky looked a little different than it does now. Long ago, on July 10th, the Sun really did hang out in Cancer. But precession has caused things to shift. The Earth rotates on its axis, just like a top. Also like a top, but not to the same extreme, the Earth is bulged slightly at the equator and flattened slightly at the poles. The Sun and Moon tug on that bulge and cause the Earth to wobble a bit. If you watch a spinning top you can see that the top does not point straight up but traces out a small circle which gets more pronounced as the top winds down. The Earth doesn't wind down and the axis keeps tracing out that same small circle. It takes a very long time to make one circle, 26,000 years to be exact. Precession has the effect of making the stars appear to "shift" in their places in the sky.
Right now our axis points to the north star, long ago it pointed to a star called Thuban in Draco. In the future it will point to Vega, and sometimes in its path, there is no north star at all. But in addition to changes in the north star, there are other changes, and it is the reason for the shift in the zodiac. Precession has caused the Sun to have the stars of Gemini as a backdrop instead of Cancer. But back to the ages, what are they?
The ages are astrology's way of dealing with precession. Long ago, on the vernal equinox, the Sun was in the stars of Aries the ram. Back then the astrologers referred to the age of Aries. Apparently there are certain attributes connected with each age.
Currently we are in the age of Pisces. I'm not sure what attributes are connected with this age. According to the popular song, we are in the "dawning of the age of Aquarius." And when the much heralded age arrives, harmony, trust and love will abound. But don't hold your breath waiting for that age of Aquarius. It's going to be a long morning twilight. The age of Aquarius will not start until the year 2614.
Copyright © 1999 Kathy Miles and Charles F. Peters II