Astrology believers have been freaking out over the past week about news that there's been a shift in things and Capricorns might be Aries or Cancers might be Virgos or something like that.
A new sign, Ophiuchus, has been bandied about.
Customers at shops like Houston's Body Mind & Soul have been anxious; we are here to tell everyone to chill the eff out.
Local astrologer Figgy Jones has studied the matter and talked to colleagues and offers five reasons not to freak out about the changes.
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The concept of the heavens, and therefore astrological signs, shifting over time and squeezing in a "new" constellation which would probably push you back to the sign before yours. (i.e., Stoic, grimly determined Capricorns? You're now, according to this hocus-pocus, Sagittarians full of the dreaded optimism.) But fear not.
5. No one can pronounce the name of the new sign, Ophiuchus, without sounding like Sylvester, the Looney Tunes cat with a lisp, attempting the fine art of cussing.
4. Sylvester is not the only one with his own brand, as it were. Astrology is all about symbols: the word itself (astro + logos) means "language of the stars" and we don't mean points they demand up front for every movie. Unless you were born in a cave - and of course, we know only Scorpios enter the world that way -- each astrological sign is represented by a symbol. Aries = the ram; Taurus = the bull; Cancer = the crab, and so on. What the hell is this so-called newest astrological sign, anyway?
"I haven't seen a symbol," said local astrology teacher Marva Mason, who also hosts metaphysical fairs each month. "I haven't seen anything on it. This whole thing is bogus."
3. Investigative reporter and astrologer Eric Francis writes on his wildly popular website, www.planetwaves.net, that "As for Ophiuchus ...this is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac." He explains that "most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work."
In his January 14 column, Francis reminds us that the Ophiuchus hubhub began a number of years ago, as its so-called creator, a sci-fi author and satirist named John Sladek, died in 2000.
"Sladek liked to prank astrology," Francis wrote, "and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was "suppressed by the scientific community."
The Ophiuchus hoax, he writes, "first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those e-mails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way."
To "pay back" the astronomer who recently reopened the whole controversy last week, Francis wrote, "I wish I could put out a press release announcing that the world is flat, and send astronomers scrambling -- to return the favor for when an astronomer sends out a press release announcing that your zodiac sign is wrong."
The hoax went viral and became No. 1 on a couple search engines, said Kevin Casey, of Body, Mind & Soul, a metaphysical shop in Houston. "We got so many calls from people who wanted to know, 'What sign am I now?'"
2. To the delight of astrologers everywhere, the guy who started the movement to defrock Pluto as a planet - who had the cojones to author a book titled How I Killed Pluto -- has himself been defrocked, in a recent edition of The New York Times Book Review, anyway.
Professional astrologer Mason sneers at that whole debacle: "Anybody who's ever had a Pluto transit (where Pluto touches something significant in the person's birthchart), just ask them if Pluto's a planet."
"There's always been a war between astrologers and astronomers," Mason said. Astronomers won the battle, re: Pluto. This latest rehash of a stale and manufactured controversy? "Chalk it up to something else astronomers are trying to shove down our throats."
Mason, who has devoted her life to practicing and teaching the metaphysical arts, would herself lose her cherished status as a philosophical Sagittarius to become the unthinkable: an Ophiuchus. "I would change into that one I can't even pronounce," she said, disgusted. "I'm not giving into it."
1. And the Number One reason you don't need to concern yourself with Ophiuchus: The sign of Scorpio would govern only six days of the year, Nov. 23-29. Most Scorpios would become (to their minds, anyway) feckless Libras. Sure, we're trading in stereotypes here, but it needs to be said: No one with any sense wants to piss off a Scorpio.