What is your (New) Rashi?

The debate about Ophiuchus

I seem to have developed a healthy fondness for Punjabi heroines, first it was Juhi Chawla, then it was Priety Zinta and now Priyanka Chawla Chopra. Ah! well, this has nothing to do with Priyanka’s role in the movie ‘what is your rashee’ or the other heroines, but I do promise you that this will not be a heavy article.

I must admit that this bit was picked up upon inspiration by an article in our local “News and Observer’ paper and after seeing a lot of furor over the matter. As I read on, I saw that the western world has been taking this virally the last 3-4 days after the story hit the papers and news wires. Incidentally this same furor has happened a few times before the last major one being in 1995.Well, to dive directly into the gist of the matter, one paper started off by announcing that based on an astronomer’s comment, you really had to redefine and even consider a change to your zodiac sign, all due to a wobble in the earth’s spinning.

What actually happened? Well, some days ago, an astronomy instructor named Parke Kunkle talked about the earth’s spin and the fact that astronomers believe that 13 constellations ought to be considered instead of 12 in the Zodiac theory. Somehow starting with the first report, the story spun completely off course. Kunkle's brief comments in the Star-Tribune article were later spun into an ‘astronomer says the zodiac has to be revamped’ situation. People were flabbergasted, lovers were taken to an attack of nerves, people who followed their star signs every morning were confused, news spread through the blogosphere and news media and those possessive and concerned with their signs reacted with lots and lots of emotion. Ophiuchus was reintroduced into the news world. As I read, , I wondered, the word itself not sounding more complicated than Sagittarius, does make you feel like you were on a Mediterranean cruise through a bunch of remote Greek islands.

Well as news went, some were happy that their bad star became a good one and quickly changed their outlook, facing the world with a happier facade; others sank into foul moods hearing that they were not for example the fiery Leo any longer, but something else. And relationships soured, divorces increased…(Not really! I am joking, at least for now). But if you Google this, you will find that many of the media big guns have picked this story up and you can follow extensive discussions and rebuttals underway. I am not sure if the story has yet been picked up yet in India or if it will have any effect, for our world out there is even more confusing with the multitude of gods, rituals, practices and many beliefs. But I can imagine how it can be taken up by the media there, they can make you feel that the world will soon spin into flames and perish.

Anyway over the last week, this news disturbed the calm and cozy astrological world where life was simple as a normal Leo or Aries and where the many astronumeroquacks (my own classification of these characters) and ‘suddenly thrown into limelight’ babas minted money as usual telling you that you were not and that the influence of some long lost star was surely and steadily taking you down the path to ruin unless you paid them to steer you away from it.. (how they reverse the magnetic fields and effects in ‘7 days guaranteed’, is a different thing altogether)

But well, it has always been a bewildering thing for the younger people in India, especially matters concerning astrology and sun or lunar signs. They had to contend with both the Eastern and Western systems. Everything in Apna desh is connected to astrology and the influence stars and planets have on you where you have your Rashee (defined in your local tongue) and for the ‘hep’ crowd you have your sun sign…

I will not get into the differences between the three major systems in use around the world today, them being the Vedic or Indian charts, the western charts (largely based around the Greek) and the Chinese charts. In astrology, the zodiac denotes those signs that divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude. It is known to have been in use by the Roman era, based on concepts inherited from Babylonian astronomy of the Chaldean period which, in turn, derived from an earlier Sumerian system of lists of stars along the ecliptic. The construction of the zodiac is described in Ptolemy's Almagest (2nd century AD).But to put it all simply; the 360 degrees are divided into 30 degree segments in the western system meaning you have 12 zodiac signs. In the Indian Hindu system you have a more accurate 27 star division, based on the sidereal system where the 360 degrees are divided into 27 parts of 13°20’degrees each.

But then the clever guy would say, what you are talking about is Nakshatras, not Rashees and he is right. The Nakshatras are further grouped into the 12 rashis. The Rashi system was incidentally adopted by Indian astrologers based on Greek systems, after the arrival of the great Alexander. The picture would illustrate the way the Hindu system is set up and how the Zodiac system falls under it. So for the past 2500 or so years, both systems worked side by side, everybody was seemingly happy, though some modern astronomers were not, for there were actually 13 or even more constellations from what they knew.

The most apparent miss out was a constellation called Ophiuchus that the Babylonians had mentioned and the Greeks knew very well. But they took it out. Why? First we get to the uproar today. Ophiuchus has been reintroduced into the discussions after these thousands of years and the Zodiac system redefined as below. Ophiuchus (Ophis = Snake) means serpent (serpent killed by Hercules) holder as the picture depicts. During Ptolemy’s time Ophiuchus was also known as Asclepius or Serpentarius. Ophiuchus incidentally learnt the secret of the elixir of life from the serpent.

The reasons for Ophiuchus fading away from the old list are many. One of them goes thus. It appears that the main problem was Ptolemey’s mania for symmetry. The Greek system was defined as a tropical system based on seasons of which there are four. The calendar comprised 12 months. Now what if we had 13 months what would you do? A calendar of 13 months does not divide into four seasons, and 12 was the favored number for all ancient mathematical systems, as it is divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. On top of that, the number 13 was considered an unlucky number, and so Ophiuchus was unceremoniously dropped from the system.

But that does not quite convince me. Why Ophiuchus, why was it chosen as the star to be dropped? Why did Ptolemy not consider it in his tetrabiblos? Was it connected to evil? Was it because Serpentarius was a galaxy which was home for many comets as well? As I checked further I found that the dropping may have had something to do with non traditional worship.

One theory attributed is that it (Ras Al hagues or apheiucus of the Arabs) was apparently connected to a number of evils such a mental depravity, loose morals, misfortune through women, death from snake bite, malice, deceit, death by poisoning etc.

The other theory is Ophiuchus’s connections to matrilineal descent, snake worship and goddess worship. It appears that even though the symbol attributed is that of Acsclepios, this was after the original female deity was altered. The original deity was A or Aa, or Aya or Innana in Chaldean and Babylonian texts, a goddess whose symbol was a disc with 8 rays. In ancient lore she become eve in the Garden of Eden (also connected to the serpent in the tree of life) and later Isis (Magdalen) in Egyptian mythology (The Egyptian Dendera zodiac had 13 zodiac signs). As the theory goes goddess worship, snake goddess etc were not well appreciated. Anyway it was also related to Masonic symbolism, and serpent worshipers were termed Ophites practicing Ophism.

And of course many of you will know that 13 was a favorite of occultists and plain unlucky. Nevertheless, it appears that properties such as evil influence were attributed to Ophiuchus and it was dropped. Or so it seems, for all the text related to this is pretty vague and unsubstantiated, like most of astrology is.

Interestingly it was just a couple of months back that a doctor friend of ours asked us what the story behind the doctor sign was. Well, that is the sign of Ophiuchius, depicting the Asclepius staff, today’s motif of the AMA

So what does the Zodiac with Ophiuchus look like? Look at the chart below to determine where you fit in as of now and erase the thoughts you had until now. Or is that all right? Should you get rid of that Pisces fish tattoo you had in the nether regions, waiting to be shown to the right girl? Is that the end of it? No, there is no end to all this, as new ideas keep popping up. Cetus (May 12 to June 6) the 14th sign is another possibility that would be talked about.

The arguments will go on and on, so the learned people say that you should just disregard all this, forget that you wasted a perfectly good 30 minutes of your valuable time reading this ‘rubbish’ and stick to what you are happy with. If you want a 13th and a 14th zodiac sign, go for it. If you want a more precise one, go for the 27 Nakshatra Hindu systems. If you don’t like that as well, try the Chinese system.

May all the clairvoyants and astrologers make more money and may you be at peace.

Mars/Earth Enigma: A Sacred Message to Mankind - DeAnna Emerson
The wandering astronomer - Patrick Moore

Pics - Google images thanks


Jina said...

Finally!! I get it. Thanks.
Btw, didnt u mean Priyanka Chopra and not Chawla?

My twisted logic said...

You might have liked " what's your rashee".It bombed in Box office but it's really a good movie.I hope at least some readers will watch it after reading this blog.

"Priyanka Chawla" might have been miss typed but certainly Preity zinta is not a Punjabi.She is from Himachal Pradesh.

P.N. Subramanian said...

Very interesting. Only yesterday I read in a Hindi blog that the Astrologers have been fooling people for the last 2500 years and that now they are in a predicament.


Very interesting. I remain the same as I was!

My twisted logic said...

Dear Maddy......
Very interesting post.

Happy Kitten said...

They have made three in my family, my parents and myself Capricornian’s , while all along I was happily blaming the Aquarian star for all the vagaries in my character :)

Lot of work for the Astrologers now..wonder what they shall come up with!

Maddy said...

I seem to have missed replying all of you.

Thanks Jina & DC both of you are right..

Thanks Raji PNS & HK..I agree...

Nandi said...

Dear Maddy, seen this post only today and hence the delay. today i commented on your Vishu research post. Being a product of Malabar area, in my blog i deal with the music the nature starts to sing in the form of Nifty movements (indian share market index) . As music has Sruthi (frequency) and Thala (timing) and time is linked with Sun, Moon i also has to deal with it. As Moon circles round the earth 13 times in a year a 13 month calender ( 12 months 28 days and last month 29 or 30 days) is the natural thing to adopt. But, as you mentioned problems for division and fear of number 13 prevented that calender. However one group still publishes a 13 month calender.

Nandi said...

Dear Maddy, read my post dated Sunday, December 4, 2011 on this subject in my blog vipanisangeetham(http://marketsmusic.blogspot.in/search?q=13+month).

Maddy said...

Thanks nandi
I will take a look and comment

sri said...

Really a good post