Thirteenth Sign? Scientism and The Media Blitz

I have received so many inquiries about the recent media blitz on the 13th sign and I would like to share my comments on it with you.

First of all, this whole 13th sign thing is not news.  It has been around for many, many years, and it seems this year, some astronomers in Minnesota are bored (perhaps it’s too cold and dark there) and so desired to stir up the pot a little bit and call attention to themselves by “scientifically” proclaiming the “discovery” of a 13th sign in the zodiac. NPR and other news organizations have picked up on this and given us their attitude of snarky, tongue-in-cheek cuteness to the whole scenario. And that because of this, astrology, which they know nothing about, is being portrayed as no longer valid.

There is a zodiac of stars that we are surrounded by, and one can divide up the pie, the 360˚ orb around the earth in whatever way one chooses. The twelve sign system has been around for many, many centuries, and it has served us very well, and for good reason.

Because of the way the earth is tilted on its axis as it passes around the Sun, the angle of light that we receive throughout the year changes in its quality. Hence, there are four seasons. There are two solstices, winter and summer, and two equinoxes, spring and fall.  At winter solstice the light in the northern hemisphere is weakest and shortest because the tilt of the earth puts the north pole farthest away from the Sun, and at summer solstice the light is the longest and strongest with the North Pole tilted closest to the Sun.  At the equinoxes, spring and fall, the light is shining at an equal angle on the whole earth, hence equal day and night, in both northern and southern hemispheres.

Western astrology is called “tropical” astrology for this reason: The signs of the zodiac begin exactly at spring equinox, when the days are equally as long as the nights. This is the first degree of Aries, the first sign of the zodiac.  The Persian calendar, for example, reflects this as this is the day they celebrate the New Year. Astrologically, Aries is the sign that symbolizes the beginning of the cycle of the soul’s development, initiating a phase of karmic progression that ends with the last sign of the zodiac which is Pisces. The very last degree of Pisces occurs just before the spring equinox. That sign represents the last stage of the development of consciousness on the physical plane.  

Taking this archetypal pattern from Nature, there are four seasons of life: spring, when the first shoot of life emerges from the ground; summer, when it grows to give its bloom; fall, when the bloom becomes a fruit; and winter when the plant eventually dies and the ground contains the seeds for new growth. Astrologers divide each season into three stages, which are the three kinds of signs: The first is Cardinal, the initiating phase, the second is Fixed, the phase of maintaining and sustaining the nature of the season, and the last is Mutable, the phase of change which begins to mix the old with the new and makes ready for a new season. Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable, these three stages repeat themselves in order four times a year. Three signs for each of the four seasons.  Thirty degrees for each of twelve signs makes up the 360˚ around the earth. It’s a good system, archetypally, and has proven itself valid for many centuries.

Now, as to the current trend of media snarkiness around astrology, I can only say that there is quite a bit of it, and it seems very congruent with the predominant major religious dogma that still, after all these centuries of domination and propaganda, denotes astrology as sinful (yes, it’s a sin to have your chart read according to the Catholic Church), and so the predominant media sees it as nothing more than a curiosity for idle people to entertain themselves. And so, hey, if some group of astronomers wants to add a 13th sign, that’s news! Trendy, bizarre, kinda-now, kinda-wow, but we don’t ever take it seriously, do we?

Yes, we do. As an astrologer practicing for more than 20 years, I have seen that the system works beautifully. And more than that, I know it to be a coherent and eloquent language for the translation of the ancient dictum “As Above, So Below.” There is a concordance (a dance of concord) between the macro movements of the universe and our own little human world.  This congruency of archetypal forces becomes apparent when I see a person’s chart and can speak with them accurately about the issues of their whole lives and their karmic path without ever having met them before. This kind of practice and knowledge, however, requires years of dedicated study.

I’m all for new systems of thought and understanding. But before we go and change a system that has lasted for so many centuries (despite millennia of disparagement), and call  it “wrong” in favor of something else, we need to take a look at the information and ask why. To me, it seems like just adding more chaos to the world, just for the sake of calling attention to oneself, or messing things up for “fun.”

This situation reminds me of the newly discovered planetary body, Eris, three times farther from the Sun than Pluto, but whose discovery upset the definition of the planet Pluto for astronomers (it’s all the same to astrologers, whatever you call the planetary body.)  Eris was the thirteenth goddess who was not invited to a wedding because of her reputation as the Goddess of Strife and Discord, but who came anyway.  She left a golden apple in the center of the table inscribed with “for the most beautiful one” and left the rest of the goddesses to fight over who should receive it.  Which then started a chain of events leading to the Trojan War.

The whole argument for Western Astrology, or tropical astrology, is that it is a symbolic system, based upon the inexorable progression of the seasons. It is true that the constellations have shifted over the thousands of years that astrology has been utilized, and so the stars that we used to call Aries, for example, are 23 degrees behind where they “should” be.  But what is reliable and repeatable is that the Spring Equinox is always at the same time each year, and tropical astrology is based upon the Sun’s position at the Tropics of Cancer (the beginning of summer) and Tropic of Capricorn (the beginning of winter).  Shall we not call it the Tropic of Cancer any more because it’s now the Tropic of Gemini? I think not.  As it has for centuries, the sign of Cancer means the first day of summer, the sign of Capricorn heralds the first day of winter.  Perhaps if we focussed upon what it means that the movements of the planets in our solar system have a direct resonance to our own human dramas, and that learning about the details and the symbolic truths of these movements irrevocably shifts our world view, then it might then help us shift to being less invested in “scientism” and pay more attention to the mysterious and symbolic nature of the many different archetypal forces (such as Eris—the Spoiler) that underlie the motivation of our actions.


All charts here are using Natural House system: i.e. the Ascendant is always at 0˚ of Aries.