It's a Sign!

Yikes! Just when my emotional equilibrium was flummoxed by the Angie and Brad breakup, some fancy-pants astronomers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have introduced a new zodiac chart. The new zodiac adds a 13th sign called Ophiuchus (as if anyone can spell or pronounce it) to be known as the snake bearer (lovely image, that snake bearer). NASA’s explanation for this mischief is shrouded in mumbo jumbo regarding elliptical coordinates, declination of the celestial sphere, and where the North Pole points (it’s not north?). All I can report is that the 12 zodiac signs that we have used for over 2,000 years, as pick-up lines in bars and as printed horoscopes next to the comics in newspapers, are now history.

Who asked NASA to do this? Remember when they messed with Pluto’s planet status? Now it seems NASA is trying to shift the fault onto the Babylonians. They claim Babylonians knew that there were 13 zodiac signs 3,000 years ago, but ran with just 12 to align with the 12 months in their calendar. Typical Washington political maneuver. Allege there has been a cover up and blame the other guy. Of course it helps if the other guy has been dead for thirty centuries! I bet the FBI won’t find those records either!

The 12 zodiac signs we all know and love (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces) have served us well. But now, if your birthday falls from November 29 to December 17, you are none of the above – you are an Ophiuchus, you snake bearer you! The addition of this rogue sign also impacts the beginning and end dates of the original 12 signs. Not only will horoscope peddlers have to come up with one more set of vague suggestions, but you may find yourself with totally new advice. Imagine going from “You may finally make a decision that you have been putting off for some time” to “Certain situations may present new risks. Study your options carefully and don’t rush to decisions.” Or moving from “You are ready to make a forever commitment” to “Don’t be surprised if you part company soon with someone close.” My lovely wife, Grace, heretofore an Aquarius, has been traded to the Capricorn team. I hope my sign, Virgo, is compatible with Capricorn. I think it is, but I’m going to try to contact Jeane Dixon, somehow, someway just to be sure.

As noted, the 12 zodiac signs can be traced back to Babylonian astronomers, who deserve a little more respect than they are getting from the Johnny-come-lately crowd at NASA. The Babylonians’ work was used by Hebrew, Hindu, Hellenistic and Roman scholars. The construct of the zodiac was described in the second century work, the Almagest, by Ptolemy. I say if it was good enough for Ptolemy, “we should pthink ptwice before we ptrash it.” For example, take the mnemonic used to remember the 12 signs in order: “As The Great Cook Likes Very Little Salt, She Compensates Adding Pepper.” It may now become “As The Great Cook Likes Very Little Salt, OMG She’s Crazily Adding Pepper,” although I prefer “All This Gibberish Confers Little Value, Let’s Save Ourselves, Somebody Clamorously Alert Ptolemy.”

Finally, I hope NASA isn’t going to try to extend this 13th zodiac sign nonsense onto the Chinese zodiac. Relations with China are already strained by Presidential campaign rhetoric. Messing with the Chinese zodiac could be more dangerous than a currency or cyber war. Imagine the cost of replacing all those paper placemats that display the Chinese zodiac or re-stuffing little paper strips into billions of fortune cookies. As Ptolemy would advise, we should ptread ptenderly.

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