Stars, Constellations and Signs of the Zodiac - 1
There is perhaps no topic around which as much confusion and as many possibilities of interpretation have arisen as that referring to the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes and to the twelve "Ages" which constitute twelve sections of such a cycle. Even the exact length of the cycle is uncertain, as it probably varies; besides, two somewhat different cycles seem to be involved, one dealing with the motion of the equinoxes, and the other with the motion of the poles of the Earth. Above all, especially of recent date, a basic controversy has arisen concerning the very nature of the zodiac; and we are confronted today with two schools of astrological thinking, one favoring the tropical zodiac, the other the sidereal zodiac. The tropical zodiac refers to the twelve signs of the zodiac, the sidereal zodiac to the twelve constellations. And to make the confusion worse, the signs and constellations bear the same name (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.) though these names refer to two basically different entities and two even more different mental approaches to the concept of "zodiac", indeed to astrology as a whole — and I should add, to essential human values.
In this chapter I shall not try to go into the many aspects of the controversy or to be too technical, even if this leads to some over-simplification. I shall attempt to explain the over-all situation in terms of what is the main purpose of this book, i. e. an elucidation of what is confronting mankind today — an elucidation which seeks its supporting evidence from both the historical and the astrological fields. I am perfectly aware that in so doing I shall displease many people who will inevitably find fault with some of my statements and my interpretations.
Most of the data used in modern astrology are produced by calculating the positions of celestial objects with reference to two basic circles of motion: the earth is rotation in its equatorial plane, and the apparent yearly path of the sun, the ecliptic. The latter is interpreted today as referring to the orbit of the earth in its yearly revolution around the sun; while the plane of the earth's equator is made to extend infinitely in space, becoming thus the "celestial equator". The planes defined by the celestial equator and the orbital revolution of the earth do not coincide. They are inclined in relation to each other at an angle of approximately 23°5'. Thus they cross one another; and the line of intersection between the celestial equator and the ecliptic define two opposite points which we call the spring and fall equinoxes. In terms of zodiacal longitude, these two points are said to represent respectively longitude 0° (Aries 0°) and longitude 180° (Libra 0°).
However, the relation between the two basic circles or planes of motion, equator and ecliptic, has been proven not to be fixed. First, the angle between the two planes is periodically changing, varying as it does within approximately 212 degrees limits — such variations having a probable cycle of about 40,000 years. Secondly, if we consider the ecliptic fixed, we shall see that the equatorial circle has a twisting, sliding motion around it — which results in a gradual displacement of the line of intersection between the two circles or planes. Actually the earth-orbit changes form gradually; but the variations in eccentricity, and in the position of the "line of apsides," determining the shape and direction of the orbit, are slow and of relatively small magnitude. They do affect, however, the cycle of precession of the equinoxes.
We are aware of the path of apparent yearly motion of the sun in the sky by observing the different stars which appear at the horizon, week after week, before sunrise and after sunset. In other words, we can plot the yearly path of the sun on the background of the "fixed" stars; thus giving it also a fixed character (if we ignore the very small motions of the individual stars in cosmic space). If therefore the line of intersection of equator and ecliptic very slowly changes place, it follows that when the sun reaches this line in its motion along the ecliptic, its position at the moments of the year called "equinoxes" also changes from year to year in relation to the fixed stars.
This fact is put in concentrated form by saying that the place of the equinoxes changes every year with reference to the fixed stars. The change is slow, a little over 50 seconds of arc a year, or one degree in less than 72 years. Thus, the equinoxes return to the same point of the ecliptic, and (theoretically at least) to the same star, after some 25, 868 years have elapsed. This period, divided by 12, gives us the duration of any of the twelve precessional Ages. We are apparently now in the Piscean Age, and as the motion of the equinoxes is "retrograde" (i. e. in a direction opposite to that of the sun and the moon) the next Age will be the Aquarian Age.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1969 by Dane Rudhyar
and Copyright © 2001 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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