Astrological sign change? Let's just forget this whole thing ever happened

When I was about seventeen years old, a friend of my dad's who was into New Agey kind of stuff took the liberty of compiling an astrological chart for me. It was several pages long and went into great detail about what the day, hour and month of my birth would indicate about me as a person. At the time, like probably every 17-year-old, I had no idea what I was supposed to be, and in that way, that chart had a deep impression on me: It was a self-fulfilling prophesy, something to tell me what I was so I could go out and be that. Whether or not I was conscious of it, a good chunk of the self-identity I would go on to form probably got wrapped up in that chart.

And I'm not about to let some "astronomer" with a name like Parke Kunkle throw that shit into disarray.

A couple of days ago, Kunkle mentioned to a Minnesota TV station that, since the astrological positions were charted out by the Greeks some 3,000 years ago, the position of earth has shifted relative to that of the sun. What that means is, what we think of as astrological "signs" are actually constellations that move across the sky with the rotation of earth -- signs are determined on which constellation the sun was "in" on the day you were born. So if you're, say, a Pisces, like I am, that means the sun was within the constellation Pisces on the day you were born.

Except that, even though it might have been back in the days of the Greeks, it wasn't in the year I was born -- since the position of the constellations in the sky has shifted since the signs were charted out, astronomically speaking, the sun was actually in Aquarius on the day I was born, meaning technically, I'm an Aquarius. That, I say, is bullshit.

Interestingly, Kunkle's observation is not even new -- astronomers have known of this phenomenon for quite some time and haven't exactly made any secret of it. Don't believe me? Check out this LiveScience article from October, 2007, which is about this exact same thing. Or just look up the Wikipedia entry for your sign. The LiveScience piece also discusses another tidbit Kunkle somehow surprised everybody with -- that one constellation that exists now in the zodiac -- Ophiuchus -- should also technically appear in horoscopes, though it never does. Because who the hell wants to be an Ophiuchus? That just sounds stupid.

Why one obscure astronomer from Minnesota's offhand reference to an already well documented phenomenon happened to make such waves -- and it did: Literally thousands of news outlets (okay, including this one) picked up the story, and there's guaranteed to be at least five of your friends lamenting their identity crisis upon hearing the news in your Facebook feed right now -- is a mystery. But I submit that, just as Kunkle's news is not news, this phenomenon is not actually a phenomenon.

Because honestly, we don't give a shit where the sun is when we're born. We just want someone to ascribe an identity to us. The nature of horoscopes and astrological characteristics is that, ultimately, they're flattering. They give us a group to belong to and a description of someone we'd like to be -- strengths, weaknesses and all -- that's close enough to fit into, and we do the rest of the work of fitting ourselves into it.

Have you been a Virgo your whole life? Are you upset that the science behind something that is not actually science does not technically put you in that category? Well rest easy, sweet virgin, because you are just as much a Virgo still as you ever were, and even maybe more so. You did not pick the wrong identity. Regardless of where the sun is at, you are, it would seem, what you were destined to be.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte