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Sign Me Up: Identity and the Zodiac

Recently there was a meme regarding a drastic refiguring of personal zodiac signage. The hard news was that one would now likely fall under a different sign due to the earth's wobble—or even weirder, fall under a "new" sign, Ophuchicus.

I was interested in the articles originally because I spied debunking-type language and dismissive, self-congratulatory tones that are commonly used to discredit other occult, paranormal, or belief-based, non-scientific topics.

Sure enough, it seems this "discovery" that the zodiac signs are off a notch is anything but new information and is actually based on a lack of understanding or obtuse attitude regarding the very basics of the system being debunked.

Feeling like this was all hype, I asked Ray Grasse, a Facebook friend and longtime astrologer, for his thoughts. Here is his reply:

Funny thing: I did a cover story on this very topic almost ten years ago for Mountain Astrologer, as well as addressing it in an appendix for my second book around that same time--but it didn't make much of a dent, of course. That's because this topic keeps coming up in the media roughly every 7 years, like clockwork, with the same misunderstandings being perpetrated by the media and scientific community. In a nutshell, Western astrologers use the tropical (season-based) zodiac, not the sidereal (or star-based) zodiac, so this news doesn't affect things even one iota, as far as who falls under what sign.

Simple enough. Frustrating though, to consider that this information, by no means obscure or impervious, is completely missed, unmentioned, or cast aside in all the rigorous scientific research and calculations involved in making the "new zodiac."

To begin here, I should say I don't know literally the first thing about astrology and have no intention of making a judgment about its validity or lack thereof. I also apologize in advance for possible misuses of terminologies. My focus here is to explore the idea of an occult dynamic and its seemingly interlaced placement in the notion of Self.

The reactions I immediately saw to the new zodiac meme were on my Facebook wall. No less than two dozen of my friends had posted links to one of a couple prominent news articles and/or made comments such as, "So now I'm a Gemini!?"

Knowing for a fact that many of the people making the comments do not follow or rely on astrology in a way that would truly affect them on any type of functional level, I considered the reactions were somewhat exaggerated and even sarcastic , but there was a definite sense of breach, betrayal and loss within.

What accounts for this attachment? There's something powerful behind it. Even the rhetoric used in addressing our zodiacal signs hints at it.

We say, "I am a Gemini." While this could easily be seen as an obvious or trivial convenience, I'll point out that easily so could the phrases, "I am under Gemini," "I am in Gemini," either of which may be even more precise or correct in an everyday understanding of the horoscope.

But both of these alternatives change the objective meaning of Gemini. In our common phrasing, "I am a Gemini," the notion of Gemini is somewhat personified and enlivened, as it subversively signifies a group of likened others. It also makes the great mystical "I AM" apropos in that there is an initiation of power in being and naming oneself.

The latter phrasing examples offer a distance and subjectivity our common phrasing lacks. To say, "I'm under Gemini," doesn't signify a group or sense of belonging, and there's no claimant power of identity or being—quite the opposite, in fact, as it puts one "under" some influence.

A picky, reaching point perhaps, but something must account for the sacred affiliations to the sign. Years of claiming oneself to "be" something or belong to a group has an impact on our identity, even if we don't necessarily "believe in" astrology, or know much about it.

Another example of zodiacal influence may be found in the iconic, and highly codified "What's your sign?" question that was found representing dating and mating in the media in the midst and aftermath of the sexual revolution of the late 60s and 1970s.

These three words became known as a way to signify people as part of the free lovin', swingin' hipster scene, and was largely viewed as trite or a joke and part of a caricature. But taken more seriously and at face-value, the zodiac is being used here rhetorically as some kind of key in a doorway to romance and ultimately the first step in one's quest for lifelong familial relationships--a huge part of one's identity.

Of course, the entire point of common horoscope-astrology is that it includes personality insights, dynamics, forewarnings, and the like, and the specific signs are tied to powerful archetypes.

There is an innate sense of understanding, recognition, and intimacy in the entire purpose of the zodiac, and in my experience, people are very eager to have this kind of mirror held up, even if—perhaps in some cases because- it's in a novel fashion. There's no surprise that identity or Self is tied up in it.

But how is it that this all accumulates, how do we even come to know what sign we are? I have a very good detailed memory of my entire childhood and remember always having an awareness of being a Cancer, but have no memory of ever being told such, looking it up, or anything. It was always just there, almost organic.

I suppose with the ubiquity of the horoscope information in the newspaper, supermarket checkout ephemera, and the like, it really is a matter of unconscious information integration at an early age, and that the unconscious aspect of it may be ironically part of its power.

Sources and further reading:

Zodiac news meme
Excellent in-depth response countering the new zodiac, by Chris Brennan
Ray Grasse's books available at Amazon

Contact Richelle Hawks

Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love