a previous article (White
Magic in Gondwanaland)I explained how the seasons of
the year, around which the Wheel of the Year or Sabbats are based
in Australia, are an aspect of an imported Neo-Paganism which originated
in the Northern Hemisphere and do not fit here in Australia without
modification. At the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere
the Sun is 0 degrees Capricorn, the traditional sign of Midwinter,
but here in Australia we are usually sweltering in the middle of
high Summer. According to Astrology, Australians celebrate Litha
around December 22nd in the sign of Capricorn, Lughnasad (Lammas)
on February 2nd in the sign of Aquarius, Mabon around March 22nd
in the sign of Aries, Samhain on the 30th of April in the sign of
Taurus, Yule around 22nd June in the sign of Cancer, Brigid (Imbolc)
on 1st August in the sign of Leo, Eostre (Ostara) around 22nd September
in the sign of Libra, and Beltane on 31st October in the sign of
Scorpio. These Sabbat-Zodiac Signs are the opposite of the
Northern Hemisphere ones.
Australia still experiences the Sun travelling through the same Zodiac signs as the Northern Hemispher;, however, the Season in which this occurs is the opposite one to that occurring in the Northern Hemisphere. It is not that our Antipodean Seasons occur at the wrong time - it is that Astrology, a Northern Hemisphere art and science, does not fit with the Southern Hemisphere. The Zodiac constellations were originally named with regards to what was happening on Earth at the time that the Sun appeared in a particular sign (or was deduced to be in a particular sign as the Sun cannot be actually ‘seen’ in a sign in the daytime). For example, Aries, the sign of the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, contained the Sun at the time when animals were mating, plants were growing and the sap of trees was rising after the Winter dormancy and thus Aries’s attributes are vitality, virility, energy, the releasing of the life force, beginnings, initiation and Springtime.
In his book Astrological Signs: The Pulse of Life, Dane Rudhyar explains the origins of the Northern Hemisphere bias in this way: “The Zodiac is the symbolism of the cycle of the year. It is so essentially in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere where Astrology was born. Zodiacal symbolism is the product of the experience of human races living in such regions: experience of the Seasons, of the activities of nature and of man through the changing panorama of vegetation - vegetation being the very foundation of animal and human life on Earth. As such races have been, during the last millennia, the active factor in the evolution of human consciousness, their experience has come to acquire a universal validity in the determination of cosmic meaning and human purpose. Civilisation as we know it today is therefore centred in a Northern Hemisphere and temperate kind of consciousness.”- So much for those of us who now live in the Southern Hemisphere!
I believe that Australia should adopt a different system for Astrology; the signs are there in the sky but the meanings, based on the Seasonal characteristics of the signs in the Northern Hemisphere, are six months out of date. Many (non-Pagan) Astrologers, unaware of the Seasonal characteristics of the Zodiac signs, do not understand the idea of tailoring Astrology to fit in better with Australian conditions. This would involve swapping the meanings of the signs with their opposites, or alternately moving the signs six months ahead - similar to how we have altered the Sabbats for the Southern Hemisphere. Also, if Australians had created Astrology, firstly we would have viewed the signs along the Ecliptic upside down and would not have seen them as a Ram, a Bull and so on but perhaps as a Kangaroo, or an Emu, a spotted Cuscus or a Blue-tongued Lizard; and secondly we would have been seeing the same actual constellation as the Northern Hemisphere but experienced it in the opposite Season and therefore named it something that related to the Season it was experienced in.
celebrity Astrologer Milton Black has invented a “Dreamtime” Zodiac.
He has retained the traditional twelve-fold form, however changed
the names of the signs from the familiar Zodiac menagerie to Australian
native animals. This part so far is fine, but Black has also dispensed
with the actual Zodiac belt in the sky which runs along the Ecliptic
and instead used completely different constellations, most of them
of a more Northerly position. Black’s system is as follows:
- This constellation cannot even be seen from Australia
- This can be seen from Australia.
- Visible from November in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Hardly rises above horizon in Southern Hemisphere.
- Almost circumpolar in North Hemisphere. Capella seen low on
horizon in Jan in Southern Hem.
Minor - Near North Pole star.
Major - Circumpolar the North Pole.
- Coils around the North pole.
- Hardly visible from the Southern Hem, but Arcturus can be
seen on Northern horizon in June in the Southern Hem.
- Visible from May to August in the Southern Hem.
- Summer triangle, brightest stars in the Northern Hem. Vega
can be seen in Southern Hem in June.
- Cygnus can be seen in Southern Hem on the North horizon in
can be seen from the above descriptions of the positions of these
constellations, most of them cannot even be seen from the Southern
Hemisphere. To then call this arrangement a “Dreamtime” Zodiac is
preposterous as firstly, the Australian Aboriginals did not use
a twelve-fold Zodiac system and secondly, they certainly would not
recognise constellations which they could not even see from Australia.
It is baffling as to why Black decided to construct his “Dreamtime”
Zodiac in this manner as he could have done the same thing but used
Southern constellations instead. So the potential merit of this
system is ruined by the use of Northern constellations.
Another solution, proposed by Australian Astrologer Craig McIntosh, involves adapting the signs to the Southern Hemisphere without changing the familiar names or positions of those signs. He says “This (the Southern Hemisphere question) is an area where we have remained rigidly traditional. The Northern Hemisphere Seasonal symbolism has acquired an authority which it does not deserve. After all, it is only a symbol used to describe the signs; a convenient tool. But some people have assumed it to be the definitive delineation of the Sun signs and believe that to challenge and change it affects Astrology’s fundamental integrity.” McIntosh suggests the following Seasonal symbolism for the Southern Hemisphere:
Aries - The energy to shed the leaves of the old cycle to allow the new to begin.
Taurus - The process of acquisition and accumulation in the home and land for the Winter ahead.
Gemini - A time to be given over to mental persuits and the development of ideas as we move inside.
Cancer - The expressed need to gather and store food for the family for the Winter.
Leo - The fire, warmth and focus to take us through the cold.
Virgo - The meticulous austerity of Winter, the virgin with the promise of fertility.
Libra - Coming out and greeting the world with the charm and ambience of Spring.
Scorpio - The intense energy of the bud bursting forth with the sexuality of Spring.
Sagittarius - The verve of Spring leaping into Summer.
Capricorn - A time when the growth of Spring has crystallised and new growth is restricted.
Aquarius - The sudden electric occurrence of bushfires radically changing the environment.
Pisces - A time of penultimate growth and preparation for the renewal of growth through the shedding of the season.
This system has its good points too, but why not move the actual sign names six months ahead, as is done with the Southern Hemisphere Sabbats, rather than changing their descriptions but leaving them where they are? Then we could keep both the twelve signs and their descriptions, and they would actually be describing the right thing ie/ the Seasons. The Northern Hemisphere form of Zodiac symbolism has become the pervading notion worldwide, despite the obvious incongruity for half the world. The average Astrologer either does not address this problem, or defers to the basic ‘European-ness’ of the Astrological world and dismisses it as a minor point if challenged. It is Pagans, with their familiarity with the idea of the Wheel of the Year, who are more likely to see the merits in adjusting the Zodiac to fit Antipodean conditions. I personally can hardly take Astrology seriously without making allowances for the Southern Hemisphere question.