Sofia Whitcombe began her day with the startling realization that she might not be exactly who she thought she was.
“My whole life, I thought I was a Capricorn,” the 25-year-old New York publicist said. “Now I’m a Sagittarius? I don’t feel like a Sagittarius!”
Countless people were astonished by the “news” in Monday’s Star Tribune in which Minneapolis astronomy instructor Parke Kunkle affirmed that the Earth’s “wobble” has shifted the zodiac signs. The buzz has raced across the Web like a shooting star.
Some people seemed angry. “I believe it’s a zodiac scam,” said Jose Arce, 38, from Fort Lee, N.J., who runs a body shop. “I’ve known myself to be a Sagittarius, I believe, since I was born. So to come up now with some new sign? It’s unacceptable!”
Others who took to the blogosphere to gnash and wail displayed a mix of:
Defiance: “Dude, I’m a Leo and always will be a Leo, no matter where the sun is on August 5th. Besides, this very expensive
tattoo on my right shoulder tells me so.”
Consternation: “Darn it, the whole time I thought I was an introvert, now to find out that I’m an extrovert. I’m going to need awhile to unravel my life.”
Delight: “Upgrade from Cancer to Gemini. Woo!”
No matter that Kunkle, who started it all, said it was an old story — 2,000 years old, actually — and that astrologers were insisting it wouldn’t change a thing.
Surely Kunkle’s horoscope for this week was something along the lines of “you will be a center of attention.”
“It’s been unreal,” he said Friday afternoon, estimating that he has received more than 100 media requests from as far away as Germany. “I have had messages upon messages.”
In the article, Kunkle affirmed that since the Babylonian zodiac periods were established millennia ago, the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth “wobble” around its axis in a process called precession. That has created about a one-month bump in the stars’ alignment, meaning that “when [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces,” said Kunkle, who teaches astronomy courses at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
Astrologers across the country reported a wave of calls, e-mails or website hits from concerned clients. “People are more attached and loyal to their signs than they thought,” said Eric Francis, editor of PlanetWaves.net, who said he had had 25,000 hits on his site since midnight. “It’s interesting how many people are panicking their sign is wrong.”
New news or old, most people had never heard it before. And one of the more fascinating elements was talk of a new sign altogether.
By the reckoning of Kunkle and other astronomers, astrologers are not only a month off in their zodiac signs, but they are neglecting a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus (Ooh-FEE-yew-kus) the Serpent Bearer, for those born from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17.
According to myth, Ophiuchus became a healer when he killed a snake and another appeared with an herb in his mouth that revived the dead one.
“The sun has been going through Ophiuchus for thousands of years,” said Kunkle, who says that his sign is “vegetarian.”
Linda Zlotnick, an astrologer for 32 years in St. Paul, said she and fellow astrologers have long known of the issue raised by Kunkle, but that the most commonly used zodiac — tropical — isn’t affected by it. Zlotnick, also known as “Moonrabbit,” said the
sidereal zodiac, which isn’t as widely used, IS based on the constellations.
Other astrologers expressed resentment that the brouhaha had been launched by an astronomer.
Francis, who is based in New York, said he’s weary of the endless skirmish between astronomy and astrology.
“When astronomers make fun of us, they’re making fun of the human suffering that leads people to seek answers,” he said. “People do get comfort and wisdom from astrology — and science gives us Prozac.”
A spokeswoman for the American Federation of Astrologers, Shelley Ackerman, said she’d been swamped with e-mails from worried clients. She advises them not to overreact.
“This doesn’t change your chart at all. I’m not about to use it,” she said. “Every few years, a story like this comes out and scares the living daylights out of everyone, but it’ll go away as quickly as it came.”
That should make one demographic happy — people with zodiac tattoos.
Sam Bielinski, who owns Atomic Tattoos in Milwaukee, estimated that one in five customers asks for a zodiac tattoo. “I think most people are going to brush it off,” he said of the new zodiac.
Kunkle, meanwhile, is ready to brush off the whole brouhaha.
“This has been,” he said, “an exhausting hoot.”
Staff writer Bill Ward and the Associated Press contributed to this report