by Boots Hart, CAP

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ophiuchus: The Grip, Our Grasp, the Zodiac

 Constellation Ophiuchus, as imaged in an old English compendium on the sky

Little did I know when I turned on my television come January 13th that the great Ophiuchus debate was going to have reared its head yet again.

But it had. There was a perfectly sensible news anchor, a woman whose staff usually does a crack job of digging into things, looking for the source and the truth...and there she was, chatting about a 13th zodiac sign and how we all were going change signs and how this had to do with the Moon and...and...and

Trust me - I sighed heavily, realizing that I was going to be fielding a lot of emails.

Here at the blog, all was quiet, so I took that as a good sign that y'all were going to wait and see what I had to say about it. So here's what I have to say.

In short: WRONG.

And the short order moral is...: when you want to know about astrology, ask an ASTROLOGER, not an ASTRONOMER. Astronomers, while I love them, are just not astrologers. To ask an astronomer about astrology is - in many (maybe even most) cases rather like asking a vegetarian for a really good rib recipe.

Okay. So to the facts of the zodiac as we know it, have known it and will continue to know it. The Earth travels around the Sun. That path, known as the ecliptic, creates a 'plane' - think of it as a big pizza with the Sun at the middle with the Earth running along the edge like some mad pizza maker sprinkling on cheese.

If that pizza was big enough to extend out into the stars...waaaaayyyyy out there....that would be the greater plane of the ecliptic - the celestial "latitude" of Earth as oriented to the Sun. Which face it folks, is all we care about - Earth is where we live, astrology is about life on Earth and life on Earth wouldn't exist without the Sun.

Put simply, there are twelve (count 'em - twelve)  constellations accepted in current western astronomy (yes, western astronomy) which lie along that celestial ecliptic. Those are the signs of the zodiac. And yes, they really line up. Example....

  From left to right: Part of Pisces, most of Aquarius and
Capricorn - or Capricornus, as it gets called in the land of constellations

See how these constellations are right there in a nice neat line?

Now let's get to the area of the sky where we find the aforementioned Ophiuchus...

 Sky shot of the 3rd zodiacal quadrant showing (left to right)
Sagittarius, Scorpio and Libra along the plane of the ecliptic 
(the green dotted line) with Ophiuchus above and to the
right - and not on the plane of the ecliptic.

This is a sufficiently big piece of sky that given the limitations of blog software it's a little hard to see; to give the best view I've tilted the image somewhat. But the result is pretty clear. Left to right we see Sagittarius, Scorpio and Libra all lying at, along or across the plane of the ecliptic. Ophiucus? Not so much. Not within a interstellar country mile, as a matter of fact.

Near may count in the world of hand grenades and nuclear bombs, but not so much in astrology. It is or it isn't...which rather reminds me of that highly irritating 'I'm on the cusp' thing one hears from time to time. Astrology is math. The light is on or it's off. The wife is pregnant or she's not pregnant - there are no 'sorta's in this game of where something is in space. It's there or its not there, pure and simple, we use mathematical principles to measure it and voila - we are done.

Now this isn't to say that degrees of the zodiac may not bear attributes of other signs. That's why we talk about the quality of individual degrees. But where something is, that's where it is. And plainly Ophiuchus is not on the ecliptic, therefore it's not a zodiac sign.

Period. End. Done.

Oh - and let us note here: in the whole of this discussion we have not talked about the Moon at all. Moon's orbit around Earth would have nothing to do with the zodiac unless the Moon's orbit somehow altered Earth's orbit around the Sun.

And if that was true...the whole zodiac would change - not just one sign!

I think we will do well to touch on Ophiuchus as a symbol too - which we'll do in a moment. But first let's finish with what we've started. (You your veggies or you get no dessert!) This whole 'the sign before' thing does exist in astrology - Vedic (Hindu) astrology. It's not that everyone changes signs, though - Vedic (also known as Sidereal Astrology) changes calcuations by about 23 degrees. So yes, most of us would change signs.

But to go with that, Vedic has worked through it's own point of view and come up with pretty much the same answers. It's just the precept is different - as is the perspective. Sidereal astrology basically looks down upon the Earth as if from above where western (Tropical) astrology is 'positioned' as being on Earth looking up at the sky. Vedic arose in a culture which in being rife with a caste system belongs more (not totally, but more) in the 'fate' category where western astrology has come to be greatly psychology and free-will based.

This is not to say that everyone who works with a western astrology (or in/with western astrology) will undertake the work required to change their lives. Most astrologers will tell you that they have seen many a chart which looks all nice and sweet and pretty...but which amounts to the native being unmotivated. We all have seen charts which look really tough, hard and gnarly, too. And some of those belong to some of the most respected and accomplished people in the world.

Evidently humans do thrive when given challenges, so long as they accept the challenge as part of some good process which teaches them about life and thus further empowers them to do whatever it is they aim to do. Or discover they can do. Or discover needs doing. on to Ophiuchus. Here's a picture of the constellation all by its lonely as it appears in the sky...

 Constellation Ophiuchus

There are actually two labels to this constellation - one being Ophiuchus, the other 'Serpens' - a reference to the serpent Ophiuchus is supposed to be wrestling with.

What is this about? This is about our wrestling not with women, but with our own yin/feminine - the ability to be receptive.

And what are we when we're not receptive? How about pig headed, egotistical, stubborn and unwilling to see what may just be a fact or truth?

Going back as far as the tales of the Garden of Eden, snakes have always been the image of 'temptation.' But if the whole of existence and the metaphorical allegories of biblical stories are about us, what is that really? Maybe it's about our wanting to be 'right' about what we know? Maybe its us being 'tempted' not to want to hear anything new or some truth about ourselves or our lifestyle or our assertions which isn't true?

This is the image of Ophiuchus. Ophiuchus is 'the man' (i.e., mankind) "wrestling" with his own ability to be receptive. The idea of this is backed up by the brightest star in this constellation - Ras Alhague, which some of you may recognize as a name 'borrowed' for a recent Batman movie.

There the character's name was Ra's Al Ghul - but plainly it's a reference to the star. And that the character is a villain - that holds too, but only if you look at it metaphysically. Batman can certainly be just a story. But as a mythos it can be taken to be a whole world of the Self. That being true - as it probably is in many a fantasy or science fiction mythos - then Ra's Al Ghul is a faction of the Self set against another faction of the Self (Batman) who is as a character already plagued by his own internal conflict, one which is reflected in the conflict of the world around him, drawn to him, created by his being Batman...and so on.

In other words, the standard exotica of metaphysics.

And yes, I am a fan of the Batman mythos - can you tell?  Beyond that, it's interesting to note that the Batman movie in question - the one which introduced us to the modern Ra's Al Ghul was a movie named Batman Begins, which according to the IMDb (the Internet Movie Database), was a 2005 release. And 2005 was, if memory serves me well, about the time when in many a quarter, people really did stop listening and started ranting, railing and holding those who didn't think or believe the way they did as only worthy of dispatch. Destruction. Dismissal. Denouncement.

And lest you think I'm talking through my cape and cowl, at the time this movie was released, Pluto the Transformer, symbol of how we are changed through  emotions which result from something we choose to do or not do....guess where Pluto was?

Ras Alhague the star is located at 22 Sagittarius. And yes, that's where Pluto was. Traditionally  seen as 'evil' - just like the character of similar name in Batman Begins, Ras Alhague is easy to shy away from. Yet considering how all stars, as all images in any horoscope are in the end about us, what this becomes is more of a picture about the 'evil time' we have with ourselves than anything else.

Besides, there's a whole other side to this fixed star's lore, one all about Ras Alhague as a connective with with healing. We don't like to think about it, but often enough we gimp along...some of us grousing, some of us determined to hold the good thought...until recent events confront us with the 'ill' which is really going on. From recent events in the US and around the world, we see a need for healing and the ills, figurative and literal which become evils when we aren't receptive and reactive (responsive) to the greater needs of life.

That's the astrological 'feminine.' It's not girly. It's not female. It's not about gender at all. It's about the ability to see, to contain, to react and respond to need, to build on experience.

Sagittarius itself, as a sign, is not innately yin. It's in the 'responsive' half of the natural zodiac, but the sign by nature is yang and assertive. So in arenas Sagittarian we assert ourselves and 'test' things out - ideas, means, methods, convictions, products...what have you. And from the results of that testing, we learn. Sometimes we learn what our mistakes really are and learn to do better (or do things better)...and through this active-responsive 'testing' we in time expand our horizons, abilities, confidence and reputation...all of which in time lead to Capricorn achievements.

 The receptive, yin, responsive side of the natural zodiac includes
six signs which each have their own yin or yang orientation.
Cancer, Virgo and Scorpio are yin, Leo, Libra and Sagittarius are
yang. Yet all of these signs operate in a responsive manner,
reacting to life - as opposed to signs which fall in the natural
zodiac's (left) yang hemisphere, half of which are yang by nature
and half of which are yin...but all of which are at some level, pro-active.
Or maybe we should say they're exploration/discovery-oriented,
as opposed to right hemisphere signs, which develop that which
exists...improving on things, preserving things, finding new
uses for things and so on.

At 22 Sagittarius, Ras Alhague (also known as Alpha Ophiuchus) is a third decanate star which means the source of our promptings to 'learn better' will come from without. From life. From the world.

The United States has just experienced a shooting in Arizona, raising not just discussions of levels of rhetoric, but also matters of guns, mental health and by implication, budgets and the rest of it.

In Australia, floods are devastating whole sections of cities.

Other things are happening in other places. The lessons we have not learned, whether they are about guns or rhetoric or where we build or budgets spent on luxuries instead of decency to all...all those commentaries are coming home to us through external means. That's a third decanate Sagittarian dynamic.

Through these events, hopefully we will learn, learn better and thus begin to heal ourselves, our societies and our world - for ourselves, for our posterity, for the other creatures which inhabit this planet and which may in the thousands and millions of years to come, come to inhabit this planet. 

So never mind the fluffle about another zodiac sign. That isn't happening. But that this question arose now - that's poignant. We are wrestling with ourselves. With our ability to be receptive. And thus Ophiuchus, the wrestler with the snake,got a wrestling hold on our attention.

Do you think maybe the lesson is that we need to get a grip? Maybe yes. But if so, it's probably most of all on ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. A comic in a Toronto Canada newspaper has been running a story line where a woman is very worried that here husband has suddenly become a Pisces (and she "doesn't get along with Pisces")while she herself has become an Ophiuchus (which she amusingly mispronounces repeatedly). This has been going on for days, maybe even weeks. Finally today I wondered if "maybe Boots has done a posting about this that I missed." And here it is! Thanks Boots for your insights and for setting the astrological record straight on this one.