Introduction to Macro-Astrology
©Copyright Terry MacKinnell 1994, 2002 All Rights Reserved
Note: This historical introduction is extracted from Research Notes on Macro-Astrology Part 1 The Rectification of the Aquarian Age published as a booklet in 1994. It is historical in the sense that it is orientated towards historical influences on the development of our understanding of the precessional ages and that it is my first published introduction to macro-astrology.
HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION - Part 1
The new Aquarian Age is taken for granted by most astrologers. It was even popularised in the 1960's musical "Hair", but until now details about this fabled New Age are sketchy and confused with there being very little agreement about the influences of this New Aquarian Age or its actual date of arrival. But has the Age of Aquarius dawned?
Many astrologers state that the Piscean Age continues to reign. Some also claim that the world is on the cusp of the Aquarian and Piscean Ages while others go so far as to say that the Aquarian Age has already arrived. Marcia Moore and Mark Douglas in "Astrology, The Divine Science" placed the start of the Aquarian Age at around 1900 AD. Margaret Hone in "The Modern Text-Book Of Astrology" has given a start date of about 2000 AD.
The mundane (political) astrologer Charles Carter in "An Introduction To Political Astrology" places the start of the Piscean Age at year 0. He further states that an age lasts 2156 years. This marks the start of the Aquarian Age at 2156 AD. Vera Reid in "Towards Aquarius" has this fabled age beginning five years later in 2161 AD, while other astrologers place the start of the Aquarian Age at much later dates still.
I always found this situation unreasonable. Why should there be such conflicting information about the birth and reign of each astrological age? Why can't it be stated that any age, including the Aquarian Age, started at a relatively specific date? I could see no reason why the same level of accuracy that applies to natal astrology couldn't be applied to the astrological ages. A rectified natal chart requires verification. Why can't this principle also apply to the ages?
Discovery of the system that lead to dating the astrological ages also lead to the creating of some new terminology and even the introduction of a new astrological concept or two. The astrological ages cover such large expanses of time that they allow a far greater examination of the twelve signs than is perhaps possible in natal astrology.
Astrological ages are a simpler medium to work with as the signs are more readily seen in their true state. The 12 signs appear to be the same in both the astrological ages and natal astrology, but the approach to these twelve signs differs immediately thereafter. Natal astrology follows one tack, the astrological ages follow another. As a consequence, I decided to call the study of the astrological ages, macro-astrology: astrology of the macrocosm.
THE PRECESSION OF THE EQUINOXES
The astrological ages theoretically exist because of a phenomenon known as precession of the equinoxes. I shall not go into astronomical detail, but suffice to say that the world spins like a top, with the axis of revolution wobbling about once about every 26,000 years. As a direct consequence, the alignment of the Earth in space varies with time. The position of the stars and constellations, often referred to as the celestial sphere, minutely changes each year in relation to the Earth.
By convention, the technique used to note this change is to take the position of the sun as it crosses the equator from south to north each year on the first day of spring - the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. This point, called the vernal point, also defines the beginning of the tropical zodiac at zero degrees Aries. Zero degrees tropical Aries always occurs on the first day of spring, and indicates the start of a new yearly solar cycle. The celestial sphere however is running to a different timetable.
Earth's great wobble means that its axis is continually and slightly shifting. Because the vernal point does not quite make it back to the same position on the celestial sphere (the sidereal year is slightly longer than the tropical year), it appears to be slowly slipping back through the zodiacal constellations. This phenomenon is called the precession of the equinoxes. It could equally be called the precession of the solstices. As a consequence, the astrological ages are sometimes called precessional ages.
The period of a complete cycle of the vernal point around the celestial sphere is supposedly a little under 26,000 years. In other words, after 26,000 years, the vernal point is back at the starting point or fiduciary vernal point (zero degrees sidereal Aries). For the same reason that astrologers have allowed for twelve signs as the sun passes through its annual orbit, this 26,000 years cycle is also divided into twelve signs, with each of these twelve signs averaging some 2,150 years each.
The modern discovery of the precession of the equinoxes is credited to the Greek astronomer and astrologer, Hipparchus. Around 150 BC Hipparchus noted that the vernal point was no longer in the Constellation of Aries. The vernal point had moved into the Constellation of Pisces. When the vernal point moved into the Constellation of Pisces, leaving the Constellation of Aries behind, the Age of Pisces was supposedly born.
The zodiacal constellations however, are not the same as the tropical zodiacal signs used in western astrology. The tropical zodiac always commences on the first day of spring (northern hemisphere) at zero degrees tropical Aries, regardless of where the zodiacal constellations may be located. The sidereal zodiac is fixed in space like the zodiacal constellations. Once around every 26,000 years, both sidereal and tropical zodiacs are momentarily in alignment. Hipparchus was able to conceptualise this, and decided that this point occurred in his lifetime, when the vernal point left the Constellation of Aries and entered the Constellation of Pisces.
The vernal point has continued to slip back through the constellations a further 30 degrees since the time of Hipparchus because of the precession of the equinoxes. The Constellation of Pisces however takes up more than 30 degrees of the sidereal zodiac, and so the vernal point in the 20th Century remains in the Constellation of Pisces. Unfortunately, the zodiacal constellations, such as the Constellation of Pisces, are taken as the indicators of the precessional ages, and so it is generally assumed the Piscean Age continues to reign.
But why should the differing sizes of the constellations dictate the reigning age when 30 degrees per sign is the accepted twelve-fold division of the zodiac into twelve equal-sized signs? A constellation is just a collection of stars. The grouping of stars into constellations is something that has been handed down to us since antiquity. The Constellations of Pisces and Virgo each take up more than a twelfth of the zodiac band. Other constellations, such as the Constellation of Aries and the Constellation of Cancer, take up less than a twelfth of the zodiac band. Does this mean that the astrological ages should be of varying lengths, corresponding to the various sizes of their associated constellations? This seems unlikely, but is generally the accepted case.
The point I wish to make is that the 12 zodiacal constellations are not necessarily accurate.
The constellations came to Greece from Sumer-Mesopotamia-Babylon where they had been observed and categorised at least 2000 years earlier. Before Hipparchus, the Greeks already had many stars classified and assigned to constellations, however they were not organised in tabular form but in poems and mythological stories. The alignment of the zodiacal constellations and the tropical zodiac could have been anything when Hipparchus was placing stars in his famed catalogue of stars. Once around every 26,000 years the beginning of the Constellation of Aries is aligned with the beginning of tropical Aries. When was that time? Correctly stated, when was the vernal point at zero degrees sidereal Aries? This is called the fiducial point.
Once Hipparchus had discovered the astronomical effects of the precession of the equinoxes, he was also confronted with the question of when the vernal point would be at zero degrees Aries. Perhaps vanity amongst early scientists was a shortcoming in ancient Greece - much like today's scientists? - and Hipparchus preferred to see the vernal point be at zero degrees Aries in his day. Astronomy was still in its early days, and Hipparchus was an influential historical figure involved in the cataloguing of stars and constellations. It was therefore easy for Hipparchus to take some stars off one constellation, and move them to the next constellation. An early case of the time honoured skill of fudging.
Ptolemy also states that he often changed the boundaries of constellations. Professor Neugebaurer, states in "A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy" that there is a great number of variations in the description of constellations by Hipparchus and Ptolemy.
Taking into account that Hipparchus fiddled with the zodiacal constellations that were handed down to Greece from Sumer-Mesopotamia-Babylon, and that these `adjusted' constellations were further varied by Ptolemy and even as recently as 1930 when the International Astronomical Union defined specific constellation boundaries, the accuracy of the sidereal zodiac used with the precessional ages is called into question. The only intelligent conclusion that can be taken is that the names of the zodiacal constellations, and even the groupings of the stars in each zodiacal constellation, can only be taken as arbitrary or approximate. The size and position of the constellations cannot be relied upon to signify which astrological age we are now in.
It is a spurious argument that we are in the Age of Pisces because the position of the sun at the vernal spring equinox is still in the Constellation of Pisces. While the common zodiacal constellations are used to signify the sidereal zodiac and thus calibrate the astrological ages, no claim can be made as to our current astrological age based on these constellations. The age should be determined by the `true' sidereal zodiac, not the commonly named and plastic zodiacal constellations.
It would be better to start thinking of a replacement sidereal zodiac, fixed in space, with the 12 sidereal signs exactly 30 degrees each. So although the Constellation of Pisces is very large, I have assumed for the purposes of my research that the astrological significance is limited to the standard 30 degrees allotted to each of the 12 signs dividing the 360 degrees of the zodiac. I am assuming also as a starting point, that the sidereal zodiac is orderly and behaves something like the tropical zodiac. Hindu astrologers have created a sidereal zodiac along these same lines. However despite the accuracy of Hindu sidereal based astrology, I am not using the Hindu sidereal zodiac in relation to astrological ages.
And so my research began in earnest when I rejected our inherited yet questionable zodiacal constellations and viewed the whole situation from a fresh perspective.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE FABLED ASTROLOGICAL AGES
Unsubstantiated but accepted assumptions about the ages were known to me before I commenced my research. For example:
Pisces, the sign of the two fish, is thought to be the ruling age during the time of Jesus. There are the fish and fishermen analogies. Eating fish on Friday arose from this time, as did a sacrament of wine: Pisces, like all water signs, is always linked to alcohol and drugs! Jesus died for our sins the selfless service of Pisces. Meanwhile a fish continue to be the symbol of modern Christianity.
Aries, the sign of the ram, preceded the Age of Pisces, and is notable for references to shepherds and lambs. Jews offered lambs in sacrifice to God, while "The Lord is my shepherd...." has its origins in this age. The metal associated with Aries is iron, and the Iron Age coincided with the Age of Aries.
The Age of Taurus supposedly coincided with the civilisation of ancient Egypt and the Bronze Age. Bronze is an alloy of copper, and copper `belongs' to Taurus. Taurus is also a fixed earth sign, and this age was famous for the great pyramids. Taurus is the sign of money, wealth and bulls, so the golden calf the Israelites deferred to in times of angst with their new shepherd, Moses, was a reversion to Taurean Age icons, from their vantage point in their new Age of Aries. Moses' response to the golden calf was a display of good old fashioned Aries anger. He was going to drag the Israelites into the Aries Age - kicking and screaming if necessary. The bull was also a favourite symbol associated with the gods in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in this age.
The Age of Gemini, ruler of hands and merchants, was the scene for the foundation of writing and an upsurge in trade. The Age of Cancer, a water age, is often linked to the Great Flood. Some kind of ancient flood obviously occurred somewhere if the records of Sumer are taken seriously. The mother goddess was worshipped and revered at this time - Cancer being synonymous with mothers. Cancer is also given rulership over the domestic environment, and it was in the Cancerian Age, that the domestication of animals first occurred as did villages and towns, instigating the change from nomadic tribal existence to settled farming communities.
THE AQUARIAN AGE IS HERE
The events of these previous ages, though now fabled, do seem appropriate. Without doing any research, and based solely on these fabled ages and the changes that happened within them, I concluded that the world is already in the Aquarian Age. Electricity, planes, computers, and democracy are all fairly acceptable Aquarian occurrences, and no one can deny that they have made a large impact on the world recently. What does Pisces have to do with electricity, technology and computers?
Because so many changes have happened in any millennium since at least 4,000 BC, how is it possible to delineate the particular changes that indicate a change of age? Its easy to say the Age of Aquarius has arrived, but how can this be proved?
I decided that the most effective approach to this question was to make use of the Hindu duads. Each of the 12 zodiacal signs share 360 degrees of the circle equally: 30 degrees per sign. Duads, or to be correct, Dwadasamas, make use of wheels within wheels, and divide each sign again by 12 into 2 1/2 degree divisions. I call these duads sub-signs, and when applied to the ages, sub-ages.
The reason I chose the sub-sign system is due to my involvement with natal astrology. My experience is that duads (sub-signs) are a very effective tool, especially in progressions. So why not apply the same principle to the astrological ages, and break each age of some 2150 years into 12 sub-ages of 179 years each? These 179-year sub-ages are very manageable, compared to 2,150 year ages. I also decided that the sub-ages within each age should also go backwards, as do their parent ages.
Consequently, the sub-ages in the Age of Aquarius would commence with Capricorn, followed by Sagittarius, Scorpio and so on until the last sub-age of Aquarius is reached - the sub-age of Aquarius.
SUB-AGES OF THE AGES OF PISCES & AQUARIUS
AGE PISCES AQUARIUS Aquarius Capricorn Capricorn Sagittarius Sagittarius Scorpio Scorpio Libra Libra Virgo Virgo Leo Leo Cancer Cancer Gemini Gemini Taurus Taurus Aries Aries Pisces Pisces Aquarius
The rate of precession of the equinoxes is not constant. The rate of precession is currently increasing, so an age is around 20 years shorter now than 2,000 years ago. Therefore there is some uncertainty as to the exact length of the precessional cycle. After researching many astronomical books I decided to use a precessional cycle of some 25,780 years, but again this can only be taken as approximate. Assuming the precessional cycle takes around 25,780 years, then one precessional age will last around 2,148 years, as there are 12 signs to the precessional cycle.
Utilising the signs-within-signs theory of duads/sub-signs, the length of one sub-age should be one twelfth of 2,148 years - approximately 179 years. This may have to be adjusted by up to 2 years due to the changing rate of precession, but for the purposes of these notes, I am allowing:
2,148 YEARS (approx) for one age,
179 YEARS (approx) for one sub-age.
THE OVERFLOW PRINCIPLE
Do sub-ages (and ages) have a staccato effect on history? Like some kind of cosmic strobe, is there a short sharp flash of influence - a 179-year flash of Taurus, then a 179-year flash of Aries, followed by a 179-year flash of Pisces? This seems ridiculous, and is. Life, the universe and everything in it is not like a strobe light. When a person's natal chart progresses, say to Venus or Libra, and off to the alter they go, chances are they will stay married for a reasonable period, not just for the short time of influence of the Libra or Venus period. In other words, an astrological influence can and does linger well past its own period.
Sub-ages could also exert and influence well past their allotted 179 years. This fresh perspective added a new and interesting dimension. The first sub-age encountered in the Age of Aquarius is hypothetically the Capricorn Sub-Age, lasting 179 years. Yet it possibly can extend its influence for an indeterminate time past its initial 179 years. In the Capricorn Sub-Age, an overflow from the preceding Piscean Sub-Age could be expected. Until evidence pointed to the contrary, I was going to look for, and allow, the influence of any astrological period to extend past its time.
This flow-on from one period to the next I call the Overflow Principle. I initially imagined it similar to a wave that builds up to a peak, crashes then washes over the next period. The peak effect of a sign is at the end of the age or sub-age, with its effects washing over the next age or sub-age. Naturally while it is washing over the next period, the wave of that next period is also building. I could expect that many events would follow after the age or sub-age had actually ended.
The only way to manage this Overflow Principle is to look for the beginnings of trends and distinct changes, and allow for the fruition of influences after each sub-age has actually ended. Applying the Overflow Principle to the sub-ages eventually lead me to the conclusion that the Aquarian Age started in the mid 15th Century AD.
Continued in Part 2 (for an analysis of the major sub-ages in the 2nd Millennium)
Goto Part 2