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The Daily Need

A zodiac shift agitates some, leaves the rest of us unfazed

When I walked into my apartment last night after work, my roommate was glued to her computer screen, clicking through various web 2.0-style astrology websites. “They changed the zodiac signs!” she shrieked. “I’m a Sagittarius now! I have to find out what that means.”

The startling news here is not that my roommate, once a responsible though unimaginative Capricorn, is now an erudite yet occasionally flaky Sagittarius. The startling news is that “they” up and changed a system that had been revered by the gullible for thousands of years. Who do “they” think they are?

“They” — in this case — are the Minnesota Planetarium Society, a group of “executives, astronomers, educators and everyday citizens.” Their primary shared goal is to erect a new planetarium to replace the Minneapolis Planetarium, which was closed and torn down in 2002. A noble purpose indeed.

And they also decided to change the zodiac. Here’s why:

The ancient Babylonians conceived of the zodiac as a way of forecasting a child’s future based on the position the sun was in when that child was born. Since then, the Earth has shifted a bit on its axis, changing the sun’s position relative to our planet. The stars are now about a month off where they were in ancient times. So astrology and astronomy were not matching up.

“When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces,” Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Thus, Kunkle and co. decided to rejigger things a bit for the 31 percent of Americans who put some stock in zodiac signs.

That meant shifting the 12 signs by about a month and reinstituting Ophiuchus, a 13th sign that the Babylonians had thrown out some 3,000 years ago to finesse the zodiac into working more smoothly.

So, according to the Minnesota Planetarium Society, here’s how it works now:

Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20
Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11
Pisces: March 11-April 18
Aries: April 18-May 13
Taurus: May 13-June 21
Gemini: June 21-July 20
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17

Can the Minnesota Planetarium Society just go ahead and make such decisions, altering ancient systems? No one seems to know. One thing is clear: The problem of whether the new zodiac is a load of hooey is certainly complicated by the associated problem of whether the old zodiac was a load of hooey.

I was a Cancer but now I’m a Gemini, a development I’m not too concerned about. I’ll have to watch my roommate over the next few days and see if this cosmological alteration 20-some years into her life produces a change. If it does, I may reevaluate my attitude.

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