Astrology as Data Science

     Libra

Is there a code hidden in the tree of life? Can the movement of the stars or where they were when we were born tell us something about ourselves and our future? Humans like matching patterns. Astrology tries to match the universe’s patterns.

I listened to a program about searching for order in the universe and one interview was with data scientist Alexander Boxer. In his book, A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for Our Destiny in Data, he looks at the history and “science” of astrology.  He argues that astrology is humanity’s first attempt to predict the future with algorithms. 

Algorithms – which we now associate with computers – are a set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations.

Is there any science in astrology?  Boxer looks at classical texts on astrology and especially at the underlying scientific and mathematical framework. Astrology is a very ambitious applied mathematics problem. It is a huge data-analysis project to which scientists from Ptolemy to al-Kindi to Kepler contributed data. And there are rules. Algorithms.

astrolabe for calculating the position of the stars

The early astrologers used complex astronomical calculations. On his website, Boxer has several calculators including one where you can plug in a date and time (such as your birth) and find where the planets and Moon were located. He does it in his book for dates such as Caesar’s assassination as viewed from Rome, and the Apollo 11 lunar landing as seen from the surface of the Moon. Why? To test these horoscopes using modern data sets and statistical science.

Is Boxer out to prove or disprove that astrology is legitimate science? That’s not the point. It is intellectual history. It is more about the technology the ancients developed for tapping into astrology’s “predictive powers.” Astrology has an effect on our lives today not because the stars affect us or can predict the future but because it is part of our scientific and cultural history.

PISCES Top and bottom illustrations, via Wikimedia Commons, are hand-colored zodiac constellations from Uranographia Britannica, 1748, The atlas relied on the work of Dr. John Bevis, a London physician who had devoted a year to recording the nightly transits of stars from his observatory in Stoke Newington.

Missed Moon On Midnight Snow

half moon
A waning half Moon during the day today.

I missed a Full Moon.  It has been years that I have written here about the Full Moons, but I missed the January 17, 2022, Full Moon.

There was a snowstorm that swept through the country the night before. I like snowfall that appears, turns the world black and white, and then disappears like a page turned. I had this post written days before the Moon’s shift to fullness, but I failed to hit the “publish” button. So, here it is, on a night of a waning Moon with another snowstorm – a nor-easter, a bomb cyclone – coming for the weekend.

Photo: Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

It is quite lovely to see a Full Moon on a clear winter night when the ground is covered with fresh, glistening snow.

From November through February the Moon is high at midnight.  From May through July the Moon is very low in the sky. In March, April, August, September, and October the Moon is somewhere between. So, tonight’s Full Moon will be high in the sky at midnight.

Looking through a very long list of Moon names used by American Indian tribes, I found wide variety for this January Moon. The Algonquin tribes call it the Moon When the Sun Has Not the Strength to Thaw. That would be true in the North. The Chippewa and Ojibwe use the name Great Spirit Moon. The Apache, being in a warmer climate, call this the Time of Flying Ants. But colder January times figure into most names, such as Northern Arapaho’s When the Snow Blows Like Spirits in the Wind and the Cheyenne Moon of the Strong Cold. I like the Muscogee (Creek) name for this Full Moon – Winter’s Younger Brother.

For those who follow such things, this first Full Moon of 2022 falls in the intuitive, sensitive sign of Cancer, a sign that is supposed to remind us of feeling at home within ourselves. As with New Moons, this Moon of the new year could be a signal for a fresh start and letting go of what we don’t want to carry into the new year.

A friend who does follow astrology told me in an email that tonight I should “cleanse my aura.” I had to research that suggestion.

First of all, what is my aura? “Your aura is the energy field that surrounds your body. It acts as a magnetic field of energy that picks up on emotions, health, psychic debris, and circumstances around you. Your aura can experience stress as you exchange energies with those around you, which is exactly why you need to clean your auric field from time to time.”

It turns out there are many ways to do this and some of them are things I do regularly, such as getting into nature, soaking baths, or meditation. There are cleansing tools, such as crystals, herb sticks, bells, sage smudging. Using a New or Full Moon as a time for self-reflection is certainly not a bad twice-a–month reminder.

 

A Little Famine Moon in Virgo

wolf moon

Tomorrow, February 27, is this month’s Full Moon. This Full Moon is usually called the  Snow Moon and this year in Paradelle has been a very snowy month.  We had more snow in one big storm in December than we had all of last winter, and the storms keep on coming.

Snow Moon is one of the names that is attached to several different months depending on the group and geographic area naming the event. That is also true for some of the other names given to the February Full Moon.

Other names that I have written about in past years include the Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Old MoonGrandfather Moon, Storm Moon, Bone Moon and the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Full Moon. The names certainly describe what was certainly a tough month, especially in the distant past. Even in places where there might not be ice and snow, there might be hunger and food in short supply.

The Choctaw Indians called this the Little Famine Moon. The Choctaw people originally occupied what is now the Southeastern United States in what is modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. In the present day, they are organized as the federally recognized Choctaw Nation.

Like the names Hunger and Bone Moons (and sometimes the Wolf Moon), this difficult month for people living in the northern lands was once a time when a meal might be bone soup and eating the marrow from bones. The sound of wolves at the edges of villages looking for food was also something that might have been connected to this time of year.

Spiritually, the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of the zodiac during a Full Moon and that can create an intense aspect of energy. The lunar and solar energies are thought to be in balanced cosmic harmony. It is a good time to recognize the beauty of life and express creativity. Some people feel heightened sensuality.

In astrology, full moons are about endings as they shine their light on the past month. It is a time to take stock, spot problems, and tie up loose ends. This Midwinter Full Moon is in Virgo. The February Full Moon in your horoscope at 19 degrees Virgo, is especially significant if you have any planets in mutable signs –  Gemini, Virgo, or Pisces –  and its energy is mutable., soft-natured, and feminine.

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A New Lunar Year Begins

2021 ox
2021 Ox year brush painting

Today starts a new lunar year, popularly known as Chinese New Year. 2021 is a year of the Ox which will run until  January 31st, 2022. Each of the twelve Chinese zodiac sign animals has variations and this is a Metal Ox year. The most recent zodiac years of the Ox sign were in 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, and 2009. Each animal reappears every 12 years in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months), rather than solar calendars. The most commonly used calendar is the Gregorian calendar which is a solar calendar system but it originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system.

I have written about the lunar new year here before, so this year I will focus on how your personal horoscope is affected by your birth year.

I was born in the year of the Snake, specifically a water snake. Our animal prejudices show up when people find out they are a snake or pig and would rather be a tiger or dragon. Did Harry Potter want to be put in the house of Slytherin (snake) or Griffindor (griffins are lions with eagle wings and claws)? Snakes are not good in those books, continuing a longheld prejudice against them that goes back even before the Garden of Eden serpent.

Here are some things about people born in a snake year.

snake year via chinahighlights.com

People born in a year of the Snake are called “Snakes” in China. If you were born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, or 2013, then you’re a Snake.

Despite the snake’s bad reputation, in Chinese culture the Snake is the most enigmatic animal among the 12 zodiac animals. People born in a year of the Snake are supposed to be the most intuitive.

What often makes astrology and horoscopes popular is that we like to hear good things about ourselves. Intuitive? Yeah, that’s me.

And there’s more – snakes tend to act according to their own judgments while remaining private and reticent. They are determined to accomplish their goals and hate to fail. They represent the symbol of wisdom. They are intelligent and wise. They are good at communication but say little. Snakes are usually regarded as great thinkers.

Wow, this Chinese astrology has me down exactly!

Even the less than perfect aspects of snakes fits me pretty well. We are materialistic and love keeping up with our peers. We love to possess the best of everything but have no patience for shopping. We also prefer to work alone. We are easily stressed and when we seem unusually stressed, it is best to allow us our own space and time to return to normal.

Tonight at dinner, some longevity noodles are appropriate, stir-fried and not cut or broken in the cooking. And if we can eat them without biting through the strands, it’s considered even more auspicious for the new year.

Moon in Libra

Libra

I saw a horoscope this week that said the moon is “Full in Libra” on April 7.

I know the Full Moon tomorrow is described as “pink” and “super” moon. It won’t look pink and the super is because  it’s in a “perigee syzygy.”

But astrology still confuses me. That horoscope post also said the sun in Aries opposes the moon in Libra, which is some kind of counterbalance me focus versus others. Saturn has entered into the sign of Aquarius and that further means I need to balance my own needs with the needs of the many. That actually sounds pretty sound in this time of the pandemic.

Jupiter and Pluto are in Capricorn and I don’t know what that means, nor do I understand square the supposed tension between order (Saturn) and chaos (Uranus).

I focused on Venus, the planet of love and attraction in the horoscope. It’s in Gemini. Is that good for love? No idea.

I do know that tomorrow is the Full Moon and I’ll write about that tomorrow.  I understand astronomy a bit better than astrology.

What the Constellations Said About Me

Libra Zodiac Sign Horoscope Wheel From Astrology

A reader made a comment on an earlier post of mine about astrology asking what my college girlfriend had said about me based on my natal star chart. I’m sorry to say that the answers were not written down and I recall only a few bits of information.

A few things that did stick deeper in my memory:

I was born on a Tuesday, which means (according to an old nursery rhyme) that I am “full of grace.”

I was supposed to be good at motivating others – which sounded good at the time since I was studying to be an English teacher.

I was supposed to be open to new ideas – which seemed like Catherine might have injected that so that I would be open-minded about her many “new age” ( a term we did not use back then) interests.

She said that I could easily adapt to new situations and people – something I did not feel was true of me at all.

I would have a good sense of humor. I did. I do. Who doesn’t love a compliment?

I don’t really recall any negatives about me (selective memory) or predictions about my future that she told me except that she said my physical weaknesses would be my stomach and kidneys – and damned if I haven’t had kidney stones, an ulcer, and GERD.

I recall there were numbers she gave me – all of which are forgotten – but I suppose it included things like the celestial longitude interval assigned to Libra is 180° to 210° and that according to the numerology algorithm, the life path number for everybody born on my birthday is 3. I’m not sure what to do with that numerical information.

I knew back then just by reading the horoscopes in newspapers that Libras are governed by the Venus and the Seventh House. My mother had given me a ring with my sign’s stone, the Opal, and that the symbol for Libra is Scales.

I looked on a few pretty serious astrology websites to see if anything there triggered a memory of what Catherine said about me. I should note that she was doing a specific chart for my actual birth day (sidereal astrology) rather than those general descriptions of everyone born in that wide period of Libra in any year. Catherine laughed those away.

One site said that I should be: very energetic, taking the initiative, and preferring action rather than planning.  I don’t know about back in college, but all three are untrue of the 2020 me.

Libra people are most compatible with Aquarius, Gemini, Sagittarius and Leo. Catherine was a Taurus BUT it was a strange fact that her birthday May 5 (5/10) was exactly half of my Libra birthday (10/20). That had to mean something, right? Libra people are least compatible in love with Capricorn and Cancer. I married a Cancer.

Finally, according to everything-birthday.com, as of today I have slept for 8,072 days or 22 years. (I’d knock that number down. I’m a lousy sleeper.) But I have been alive for 581,040 hours. (It seems so short.) My birthday this year will again be on my birth weekday of Tuesday. Still full of grace.