Is it All in the Stars?

Recent news reports that, for the last few hundred years at least, astrologers have been using out-of-date information to assign a star sign to each of us, may have left many of us wondering what it was all about. In case you haven't heard, it seems that, in the 2,500 years since astrology was 'invented', the Earth has shifted so much in relation to the constellations, that many of us are not, in fact, the star sign we thought we were. Yes, according to the Minnesota Planetarium Society, we've all been studying the wrong horoscopes in our morning paper.  Now, if you've purposely chosen your life partner based on the fact that you're a Leo and he's a perfectly compatible Scorpio (please don't tell me this is not the case, this is a made-up example!) and now find that not only are you a Cancer, but he's actually a Ophiuchus (yes, there's also also a whole new star sign to take into consideration) then you might be calling for that divorce lawyer as I write. And I suppose if you need to check your horoscope before you make any important decisions, then you might now be questioning how you've got through your life while heeding the wrong advice. But I suspect that most people check their 'stars' do so only as as a bit of fun. I mean, if we've all been reading the wrong horoscopes, doesn't this serve to illustrate how, well, unpredictable these predictions are?

And I have to admit that, regardless of any apparent similarity of character to my 'star sign', I've always been of the Cassius state of mind when it comes to astrology :'The fault, dear Brutus, lies in not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.' he told his colleague as they plotted the murder of Julius Caesar, at least they did according to Shakespeare.

But before I upset any believers out there, let me explain. I'm not by nature an automatic disbeliever of anything. I remain open minded to the possibility of most things. But I've always had issues with astrology. Not because I have no empirical evidence on it  (I believe that one day Derby County may win the FA Cup again, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, so am no stranger to blind faith). I don't judge people who follow their horoscopes avidly. I don't think it's silly or pointless - because how can I know? But I can't help thinking it's so highly unlikely that someone born on a particular day might, because they were born on that day, have certain characteristics. In particular, I find it hard to conceive that every person born on that particular day might have the very same characteristics. And before all you astrology fans email me, I know it's all about tendencies to have these traits.

But I have to admit this news has made me feel a little better about the torturous afternoon I spent, while a teenager, as my friends read out the supposed characteristics that my Pisces-influenced personna was locked into. It wasn't that I minded the accusations of being over-sensitive, artistic and emotional – I freely admit to all three of them – but I did take exception to the suggestion that I was also gullible and lived in a dream world. And so, I argued, finding three out of some twenty or so traits listed that did fit me was hardly proof that the whole astrology thing worked! Well, if they'd unknowingly been reading out the wrong horoscopes then every assertion they'd made became nonsense. And I have now discovered that, according to this 'new' adjusted astrology, I am in fact an Aquarius.  All my over-sensitivity, artiness and emotion was not because I was a Pisces - it was something else. Upbringing? Accident? Whatever? But certainly it was not down to being a Pisces! Or an Aquarius! According to the experts, as an Aquarian I now have a tendency to being unconventional, loyal and fiercely independent. All traits I admit to.  But I'm not cold, undemonstrative with my affection or unscrupulous - all of which are also the supposed characteristics of the 'typical' Aquarian. And, of course, this is why I remain unconvinced. I possess only a tiny proportion of either supposed Piscean or Aquarian traits. And, as I asserted to my friends all those years ago, there are plenty of traits I recognise in myself, that are supposed to be the sole domain of other star signs The law-abiding nature of a Virgo, the faithfulness of a Taurus, or the frankness of a Sagittarius, are just a few examples.  My friends, perhaps because they rather liked the traits their star signs were supposed to have, were unconvinced back then. But now I wonder how many of them might be rethinking their assumptions?

But there's been a sudden backlash of astrologers and astrology enthusiasts asserting that not all astrology relies upon the stability of the Earth's position, and that much of it relies only on where the stars appear to be in the sky above the Earth and therefore this does not alter. So one type of astrology is affected only by how things look from Planet Earth, not where a planet or constellation actually is in relation to the planet?  While in another version of astrology, used mainly in the East apparently, predictions and star signs do change because they do rely on the position of the Earth? Which made me wonder who decided where these imaginary lines that divided us all into twelve groups were placed, and why?   I don't know about you but I find all this far too confusing to worry about. And, you know what, I'm not entirely sure I want to believe that everything that happens in my life, or at least a large portion of it, is somehow predestined because I was born on the day I was. I prefer to think I have choice, that I can make a difference in my own life. That the position of Mars on the day I was born, or at least the position it appeared to be, is irrelevant in deciding my future. How about you?