The argument for keeping the traditional twelve signs was given by a renowned astrologer, who dismissed the new theory as “meaningless”. Then, from the scientific side, an astronomy professor said: “astrology is essentially irrational, and try and give it such a rational scientific explanation would spoil it for most people anyway.”
Does all this sound familiar? This Time piece was published on November 23, 1970 as a review of Steven Schmidt’s new book “Astrology 14, Your New Sun Sign”. The author proposed the addition of not one, but two new signs, making 14 signs of 23 days each. Ophiuchus would be added between Scorpio and Sagittarius, and Cetus (the whale), would now fall between Aries and Taurus. This new system, argued Schmidt, gives “a better guide to analyzing character.”
While the 1970 revelation was about 14 signs, usually the perennial story about how astrologers have their zodiac wrong embraces the need for a 13th sign. The next big wave about a 13th sign came in 1977 when science fiction writer John Sladek, writing under the pen name James Vogh, published “Arachne Rising, The Search for the Thirteenth Sign of the Zodiac”. Many people took him seriously, and to this day, some claim to be born under the sign of Arachne the spider.
Again, in 1995 a wave of 13th sign advocates hit the air waves. The U.K.’s Dr. Jacqueline Mitton, from the prestigious Royal Astronomical Society, discovered that the Sun passes through the constellation of Ophiuchus in December. The British tabloids went wild over this, and the story went around the globe. The subtext was that if astrologers really knew what they were talking about, they would use thirteen signs instead of twelve. In 1996, Paul Berg published a book titled “The 13 Signs of the Zodiac” (also about Ophiuchus), which became a bestseller in Japan.
All these stories eventually faded away. But now that we live in the age of social networking, such misinformation can go viral, as it did in earlier this year. In January 2011, the Minneapolis Star printed a story about an astronomer named Parke Kunkle who claimed that a 13th sign should be added to the zodiac. As he explained it, the earth’s spin axis is not aligned the way it was 5,000 years ago. Currently, it’s pointing to the pole star Polaris, but around 3,000 BC Earth’s spin axis pointed to Thurban. Wait 26,000 years and the north star will again be Thurban.
“Now things have moved and the Sun is in a different constellation,” he said. “For example, the Sun was in Pisces on March 1, 2000 BC but it is in Aquarius on March 1, 2011. We’re about a whole sign off.” Kunkle reckons that those born between November 30 and December 17 fall under the sign of Ophiuchus.