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New Zodiac Sign: Astrology Makeover or Misinformation?

Perhaps an astrological makeover is not such a bad idea. A little flirtation with another sign won't cause your partner to leave (unless he or she is a Scorpio), and it's certainly cheaper than investing in a new wardrobe or a facelift.
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The economy has tanked, the housing market has collapsed and the environment is being compromised. And now some astronomer in Minnesota is telling us that our astrological signs have changed and we're not who we thought we were. To quote Dorothy Parker, "What fresh hell is this?" Fear not: Although the world is indeed shaky, your astrological sign, unlike your retirement fund, is perfectly secure.

There are different branches of astrology, a fact that astronomer Parke Kunkle failed to make clear in the interview he gave to the Star Tribune. Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, which begins on the day of the vernal equinox and follows the seasons, not the constellations. It is true that the Earth wobbles and the constellations have shifted 23 degrees, but since Western astrology is not based on the constellations, it remains unchanged.

What Professor Kunkle is referring to is known as Eastern, or sidereal, astrology, which follows those famous constellations. For instance, Vedic astrology, the kind practiced in India and other parts of the world, is sidereal. If you consult a Vedic astrologer, then your sign indeed may have changed, but this knowledge has been around for hundreds of years. Sidereal astrologers already use these so-called "new dates."

This story about our signs changing, as well as the "discovery" of a 13th sign Ophiuchus, is nothing new; it surfaces every few years and is recycled by the media. What's different this time is the massive attention it has received. New York astrologer Shelley Ackerman made an excellent point on Fox News in reminding us that during this go-around, the story was fueled by the social networking sites, which caused it to spread like wildfire.

Professor Kunkle's information, or rather misinformation, has definitely hit a nerve. Yet, is it possible, unbeknownst to him, that he has wobbled into something buried deep in the collective consciousness? He may have been wrong about our signs changing, but on another level, don't we all need to change? We can't continue to treat the Earth or each other in the same way and expect the planet to survive. Could the planets and the signs hold the key? Messages often come from strange quarters.

From an astrological perspective, something big is brewing, as several major planets are poised to change signs over the next few months. Both Jupiter and Uranus are about to bolt into fiery Aries; Neptune and Chiron will soon enter sensitive Pisces. These distant planets move slowly. Changing signs around the same time signals that there's new energy and consciousness entering the world. Aries and Pisces couldn't be more different, and yet together, they offer us a new way of being in the world. Aries is ego, action and aggression; Pisces is associated with forgiveness and healing. The challenges we face in the world today require us to be fully integrated. Being a warrior is not enough, nor is merely being spiritual; we must put our spiritual principals and practices into conscious action.

It's easy to prove Kunkle wrong or to poke fun at astrology, but we don't learn anything by doing that. If we're so afraid of giving up our astrological signs, maybe we should examine our attachments. We're all addicted to something, both as a nation and as individuals: money, power, oil, plastic, sugar, carbs -- the list goes on and on. And what about this 13th sign that suspiciously sounds like the uninvited 13th fairy godmother in tales like "Sleeping Beauty"? What is it that we need to wake up to? Extravagant Jupiter and that maverick Uranus are hanging out together in the sky; they offer us a unique opportunity to expand our mind and absorb new information.

Perhaps an astrological makeover is not such a bad idea. A little flirtation with another sign won't cause your partner to leave (unless he or she is a Scorpio), and it's certainly cheaper than investing in a new wardrobe or a facelift. Unlike plastic surgery, if you don't like the result, you can go back to the way you were. Aquarius would benefit from Capricorn's determination; Sagittarius could teach Capricorns to have more faith and enthusiasm. I'm a stubborn Taurus; my idea of change is switching from a scone to a muffin. But I need to learn to take more risks, something Aries excels at.

As an astronomer, Kunkle was probably trying to debunk astrology. Instead, he created tremendous interest. Folks have been communicating about it via Twitter and Facebook, searching the web for their horoscopes and putting their astrologers on speed dial. And the media is having a field day. Suddenly people who didn't know their sun from their moon are bantering around terms like tropical, sidereal and Vedic. Astrology has gotten more hits on the Internet than Sarah Palin and Lady Gaga! Kunkle's information may be misleading, but the attention, even the controversy, astrology has received is priceless.