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Astrology (Semi-) Explained by Netflix

I recently watched the astrology episode of Explained, Netflix’s new weekly series of condensed documentaries, produced by Vox. This one is narrated by Yara Shahidi from ABC’s Black-ish.


It was wonderful to see the history of astrology recounted, spotlighting pioneers like Ptolemy, Galileo and Jung. (A mention of Abraham the Patriarch and the Sefer Yetzirah would have been nice, but it’s only an 18-minute show.)


The origin of the newspaper Sun sign column was new to me. Its catalyst was an analysis of the newborn Princess Margaret’s natal chart by R.H. Naylor that ran in the London Sunday Express – in particular, his prediction of “Events of tremendous importance to the Royal Family and the nation … near her seventh year (1937).” This was 1930. Her uncle, King Edward VII, abdicated the throne on Dec. 11, 1936. Naylor’s prediction was certainly based on Margaret’s Solar Arc Mars opposing her natal Midheaven, an aspect that became exact on Nov. 2, 1936. Interestingly, Edward ascended the throne while Margaret’s Solar Arc Pluto was conjunct her natal Moon – “upheavals, exaggerated new plans” (Tyl) – and Solar Arc Sun was conjunct Neptune – “plans without the power to carry them through, great disappointment, chaotic conditions, entanglement in scandals” (Ebertin). See it all in another Netflix show, The Crown.


Joyce Jillson

Sun sign horoscopes are by far the most common and least accurate introduction to astrology. Still, I loved the discussion of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, the massive international bestseller that got me back into astrology in a big way in 1994, and the snippet of actress-turned-Hollywood astrologer Joyce Jillson, whose syndicated column ran daily in my hometown paper, The Post-Star.


Refreshing are the sound bites from real living astrologers, particularly America’s sweetheart, Susan Miller. (Sweetheart until she’s tardy with her free monthly horoscopes.) Karen (Fischer of AustinFischer) and I went to see her speak at the Union Square Barnes & Noble years ago. It was standing-room only. Susan was explaining to the crowd that she doesn’t like to use lingo like “Venus trine Uranus,” instead opting for more poetic language like “Venus kisses Uranus.” Karen and I were doubled over in laughter, but the rest of the audience was so glued to Susan’s every word that they didn’t even register the double entendre.


Susan Miller

The show made the interesting choice to display the well-photoshopped headshot of a younger Susan just before cutting to her speaking on video. I have to assume that the unflattering contrast is meant to subtly communicate that astrologers are deceptive.


The show then makes a couple statements that are patently false, revealing a critical lack of research on its topic: 1) “Our Sun signs aren’t even accurate anymore” and 2) “There’s technically a 13th sign, Ophiuchus.”


Each vernal equinox (first day of spring), the zodiac resets to 0° Aries in what’s called the Precession of Equinoxes, established by Ptolemy in the second century to keep the signs aligned to the seasons. So unless you’re more than 1,800 years old, no, your Sun sign has not changed.


Now, Ophiuchus – apparently an amnesia-producing spell taught at Hogwarts. (‘Appy 20th, ‘Arry!) In January 2011, astronomer Parke Kunkle mentioned a constellation named Ophiuchus that was never part of any zodiac ever. “This is not new news,” he stated. “Astronomers have known about this since about 130 BC.” Nothing in astrology changed, yet the world turned on its ear over a 13th sign. Even more ridiculous was that the “news” – from 130 BC – resurfaced in September 2016, and everyone once again threw themselves into a tailspin over the supposed addition of a 13th sign – as if they hadn’t gone apoplectic over the exact same misinformation just five years prior!


Any astrologer could have clarified these points for the producers.


Watch it for yourself. I’m going to check out the one on K-Pop next, and it had better include CL’s performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony! 내가제일잘나가


1824 Illustration of Ophiuchus

Images are owned by Netflix and Vox Media, ABC Television, Susan Miller/AstrologyZone, and Ian Ridpath.

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