Anyone who follows their horoscope has probably heard about the “new” set of astrological signs. The controversy continues as people’s ability to relate to their world has been thrown into chaos. But shouldn’t everyone involved have seen this coming if it’s so predictive? Actually, since there’s nothing new here at all, a bit of history tells us that this was a long time in coming. Horoscopes may seem like fiction to most people, but they had their roots in the foundations of science and civilization itself.
The main difference here is that fiction, as a product of the human mind, has to make sense. History doesn’t have such limitations.
Predicting the future by watching the stars was not just an idle pastime. The ancient Babylonians, who gave us the system we know as the Zodiac, originally kept time by watching the moon and its cycles across the sky. It was useful to desert wanderers because travel at night was cooler and easier. You could navigate by the stars and, if the moon was full, see where you were going.
Settling down in the Tigris and Euphrates 3,000 years ago meant that they had to know more, however. The cycle of the sun’s movement tells you when the floods come, when to plant, and when to harvest. The Zoroastrian priests moved to a combined lunar and solar calendar to make civilization possible, fitting in the Months (moon cycles) in a complicated heavenly dance.
The problem is that with a lunar cycle of 29.55 days and a year of 365.24, none of it all works out well. There are about 12.4 “Months” in a year. The resulting complex system did predict the future by watching the movements of 13 constellations (one of them the very short Ophiuchus, who made up the 0.4) across the sky. With good records the Zoroastrians could predict everything and Babylon grew into a great empire.
What’s left of Babylon now? The modern nation of Iraq, which the US seems to habitually bomb back into the Zoroastrian period, is where they lived. This isn’t the only time the story runs afoul of the US government, either. But the real problem is that our opinion of them is deeply colored by what they did to the Jews.
The Babylonian Captivity is a time when Babylon conquered Israel and took the Jews back to Babylon as slaves. The Temple of David was destroyed and Jewish culture was nearly lost. The Jews hated the Babylonians, as shown in many Psalms, for this reason. Babylon, for its part, came to be known as decadent in Jewish writing largely because their ruling warrior class was exclusively homosexual – warriors were not supposed to even touch a woman except for the purpose of reproducing. As you can imagine, for all their predictive ability Babylon had long-term demographics going against it.
The Jews were liberated 2,500 years ago by the Persian king Cyrus, known in Hebrew as Koresh, and went back home to build the Second Temple. Apparently, the original “Ark of the Covenant”, or tablets of Moses, were still around and hidden somewhere for 500 years. If you’re keeping score at home, the names “David” and “Koresh” are the two kings who built the temples of Israel, which is why the Branch Davidian leader in Waco, Texas took that name – and they were all killed in a US government raid. But that’s another story.
The reign of Babylon was over, but the science of prediction by watching the stars lived on. The problem was how complicated it all had to be in order to keep the calendar even, what with a strange number of months in each year.
The Romans under Julius ditched the moon cycles entirely and decreed, in a Roman kind of way, that the annual calendar was all they needed. The months were stretched out to make them little more than subdivisions, a nice even 12 per year. The influence of Babylon was waning for everyone except astrologers, who did their best to fit the Julian calendar with their old ways.
If you want to know who messed up the Zodiac, blame the Romans. It’s been that way for 2,000 years.
The Jews, for their part, didn’t do much better under the Romans than they did under the Babylonians. The Second Temple was destroyed in the wake of a revolt in 72 AD and the Jews were scattered across the globe. Our opinion of Rome was colored not by their diaspora as much as their persecution of the new group that made headway in the absence of the Jews, the Christians.
Jews were finally able to return home after the Holocaust, starting the conflict over who really has rights to the land that we have today. They haven’t seriously thought about rebuilding the Temple a third time because the Ark of the Covenant is missing. The group that claims they have it is an ancient Coptic sect in Ethiopia. Some of their modern descendants include the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, better known as Rastafarians, who have constantly run afoul of US authorities through their use of marijuana as a sacrament.
So where does that leave us? If you want to follow the real zodiac, you have to dig deep into a culture that came to be known as the standard of decadence – if a bit unfairly. You could opt for the Roman version, what we’ve been using, but it has little connection to the stars. The real keepers of godliness are people who don’t worry about any of this, smoke a lot of pot, and invite us all to sing along:
One love, one heart,
Let’s get together and feel allright.
If you thought you saw this coming, you have better predictive skills than most people. You might even want to write a horoscope. But, generally, the reality of history is far stranger than fiction would ever even try to be. It’s also a lot harder to cram into neat columns in a newspaper next to the comics.