Astrological Ages

Zip Dobyns

The last article in Rob Hand’s book Essays in Astrology is titled “The Age and Constellation of Pisces”. In my opinion, it is the best thing Rob has ever written, and I would like to urge everyone to get it and read it. The computer program which Rob used to calculate the dates at which zero Aries in our tropical zodiac reached the stars in the constellation of Pisces, was a revised version of one Mark had developed. We are now full circle, Rob having given us his revised edition. The program actually calculates the dates at which all the cardinal points (zero Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, in addition to Aries) reach the stars in the twelve traditional zodiacal constellations, with Ophiuchus thrown in for good measure since it also crosses the ecliptic, though it basically overlaps Scorpio.

Rob credits Nostradamus and Jung with inspiring his work with the constellations, though his interpretations are original, highly insightful and historically fascinating. For those who have not read Rob’s article or heard him lecture on the subject, I should explain that the sidereal zodiacs used by Hindu astrologers and western siderealists are 30 degree divisions of the sky which only partially coincide with the actual positions of the constellations. Our Tropical zodiac divides the ecliptic (Earth’s path around the Sun) into 12 divisions of 30 degrees each, our zodiacal signs. Unfortunately, the signs and the constellations (groups of stars) have the same names though they do not occupy the same spaces in the sky. This makes for endless confusion among astrologers who have little knowledge of astronomy. Our tropical zodiac turns in front of the constellations, making one complete circle in a Precession cycle of about 26,000 years.

The material presented here uses the constellations as outlined by Ptolemy, groups of stars which have continued to be organized into these figures for at least the past 2,000 years. These star groups are of varying lengths with Virgo and Pisces the longest; Cancer and Gemini the shortest. Rob suggests that the proper term for the visible constellations is “morphomata”, meaning pictures of forms in the heavens. Many astrologers (though a smaller proportion now than in the ancient world), use individual fixed stars in their work with horoscopes, but very few have worked with the actual constellations as they are seen in the sky.

If we use the actual positions of the stars rather than chopping them into arbitrary 30 degree segments, and we consider the astrological age to cover the time it takes our zero Aries (the spring intersection of the ecliptic and the equator) to move in front of all the stars of the constellation, we produce ages of very different lengths. The following table gives the time periods involved. Unfortunately, Rob only went back to about 4,000 B.C. so many of the dates are remotely distant in the future. In time, Mark will carry the dates back. We can do a rough estimate using the intervals we have, but I would like it to be more precise. The future is pure speculation, while we do have historical, archaeological, and geological records from the past which can be interesting to compare to the clock in the sky.


4143 B.C. TO 1695 B.C.


1854 B.C. TO 389 B.C.


110 B.C. TO 2817 A.D.


2691 TO 5431


4419 TO 6068


6363 TO 8251


8285 TO 10211


8499 TO 10196


10363 TO 11415


11630 TO 14523


14462 TO 16623


16712 TO 17419


17716 TO 18675

As can be seen, there are gaps between many of the constellations, while others overlap. Between Taurus and Aries, we have an overlap of 159 years. The Minoan civilization of Crete was a beautiful example of the potential of Taurus, and it was overthrown by less civilized invaders from Greece between 1500 and 1600 B.C., just after the Taurean Age ended. Ebla, another Taurean civilization, even more founded on commercial activity, was overrun by barbarian warriors about the beginning of the Arian Age.

Between Aries and Pisces, there is a gap of 279 years, a time period almost precisely bounding the Hellenistic Age, from the death of Alexander who conquered Greece to the Romans who did the same. Rob pointed out this and many other fascinating correspondences between history and the cardinal ingress points as markers in the sky.

Pisces and Aquarius again have an overlap of 126 years. The Aquarian Age starts in 2691, while the Piscean Age ends in 2817. A lot of people have written a lot about the Aquarian Age, unfortunately without knowing any astronomy (to know when it actually starts in the sky) and often without knowing much astrology either. They tend to only see the negative side of Pisces and the positive side of Aquarius. As our readers know, all twelve sides of life can be beautiful or terrible, depending on how humans manifest their potentials.

Dates and intervals are probably best handled in tabular form, so here are the gaps or overlaps between the ages.

Taurus to Aries

159 year overlap

Aries to Pisces

279 year gap

Pisces to Aquarius

126 year overlap

Aquarius to Capricorn

1012 year overlap

Capricorn to Sagittarius

295 year gap

Sagittarius to Scorpio

244 year gap

Scorpio to Libra

167 year gap

Libra to Virgo

215 year gap

Virgo to Leo

61 year overlap

Leo to Cancer

89 year gap

Cancer to Gemini

297 year gap

One more table for the actual lengths of the 12 Ages.


2448 years


1465 years


2927 years


2749 years


1649 years


1888 years


1697 years


1052 years


2893 years


1161 years


707 years


959 years

Pisces and Virgo, two mutables, are the longest ages; Aquarius and Taurus, two fixed, the next longest. Two of the cardinals, Cancer and Libra, are among the three shortest ages. Earth is clearly the most emphasized element if duration of the ages indicates emphasis on that part of life. Learning to cope with the material world is definitely still a challenge for humanity. Just when we think we are mastering the world, we face droughts, earthquakes, floods, tornados, soil depletion, air and water pollution, scarcities, etc.

As our readers know, I think that many models can be useful, but that each has limited value. We need to be wary of expecting too much of them. No model offers final or complete truth. A model is like a metaphor. It suggests a similarity between two different “things” or processes or events, etc. I have just read a marvelous book which I recommend to everyone: Metaphors We Live By, published in 1980 by the University of Chicago Press, by Lakoff and Johnson. The authors describe how our metaphors, usually accepted quite unconsciously, shape our lives, and how each metaphor highlights some features in the situation and conceals others.

The book is full of examples, and one that especially appealed to me is the common metaphor “Problems are puzzles.” A puzzle normally has a single, accurate solution. When you have found the “right” way to solve the puzzle, there are no more challenges connected to it. Lakoff and Johnson describe a metaphor experienced by a graduate student in the U.S. from Iran who misinterpreted statements he heard from fellow students about “the solution of my problems.” The foreign student interpreted the word “solution” in its chemical meaning, which gave him a totally different metaphor. He conceived the problems to be like chemicals in a solution, with catalysts sometimes dissolving some problems and precipitating out other problems into tangible form. This metaphor pictures problems as things that never disappear utterly, and cannot be solved once and for all. The best we can hope for is that a catalyst may make one problem dissolve without having others precipitate out. Does that sound like our astrological dilemmas? Yes, indeed! We learn to live with the ambivalences, and enjoy life anyway.

The point of the digression is both to encourage readers to investigate a very good book and to remind you that though I am looking forward to much future entertainment exploring this new model in the sky, I don’t expect it to offer any final answers. Also, individual years should probably not be over-rated. With the slow movement of the precession against the backdrop of the stars, it takes about 72 years for a cardinal point to move a single degree, so when we specify a year, we are actually listing the beginning of an extended period of time. This is an over-view technique with a long range perspective.

As mentioned earlier, all the cardinal points are included in the computer program, so we can give the periods during which they were moving in front of the different constellations. I will list only the past ones here. If we have any history buffs among our readers, the full results can be photocopied and mailed, specifying the year that each cardinal point reached each star in each constellation.

Summer Solstice timing (0 Cancer):

last few stars of Virgo 4376 B.C. to 4024 B.C. (the program starts at that date so the beginning date of Virgo is unavailable)

Leo: 4151 B.C. to 1264 B.C.

Cancer: 1145 B.C. to 119 B.C.

Gemini: 298 to 1753 A.D.

Taurus: 2373 to 4765

Fall Equinox timing (0 Libra):

last star of Sagittarius 4624 B.C.

(Ophiuchus: 4578 B.C. to 2496 B.C.)

Scorpio: 4348 B.C. to 2524 B.C.

Libra: 2318 B.C. to 1187 B.C.

Virgo: 877 B.C. to 2475 A.D.

Winter Solstice timing (0 Capricorn):

late Pisces 4708 B.C. to 3705 B.C. (beginning date not available)

Aquarius: 3799 B.C. to 1009 B.C.

Capricorn: 2009 B.C. to 334 B.C.

Sagittarius: 46 B.C. to 1909 A.D.

(Ophiuchus: 1943 to 3972)

Scorpio: 2176 to 3956 A.D.

Does it mean something that zero Capricorn (the point of highest elevation in a chart with the natural zodiac) reached the serpent-slayer when we set off our first atomic chain reaction, leading to the atomic bomb within a few months? The executive (Capricorn) branch of the U.S. government gave the orders for the project. Ophiuchus extends beyond Scorpio in both directions, so could be said to “enclose” the constellation. Occult traditions associate Scorpio with the serpent and with the Kundalini. A giant increase in humanity’s potential for destructive power has been a part of our lives since that fateful day in Chicago.

The first atomic chain reaction occurred on Dec. 2, 1942, at 3:25 P.M. at the University of Chicago. I was in college there at the time, of course quite ignorant of what was occurring in an underground laboratory. Will we have learned to handle this unleashed power by the time zero Capricorn reaches the first star in Scorpio in 2176? Will the serpent slayer learn to work constructively with the serpent it seeks to contain?

Is there a meaning to the summer solstice currently moving through the gap between Gemini and Taurus? Is our booming “information age” to be considered a continuation of the momentum of Gemini? Will we have played out its major potentials by 2373? Any consideration of the future is pure speculation, but perhaps a look at history can help us to avoid repeating some of our past mistakes. In a lecture presented at an ISAR conference, Rob Hand pointed out that the summer solstice was on the star Beta in Gemini when Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into eastern and western parts, to make it easier to govern.

The fall equinox has been in front of Virgo since 877 B.C., through all of European history in written form. Scholars are still trying to translate the script of the Etruscans who predated the Romans in Italy. The Middle East had writing from the days of Sumer, about 3,000 B.C., but we have only the artifacts of archaeology from Europe though a form of early Greek dates back to around 1200 B.C. Minoan script from Crete is still undeciphered. Most experts believe that these early forms of writing were carried into the Mediterranean from the near east, so they belong more to that area than to Europe. If we take the fall equinox (Libra) to represent the capacity to cooperate with our fellow humans in peer relationships, we are clearly still working (Virgo) on that issue.

In the years preceding and following the birth of Christianity, a considerable number of mystical cults were competing with each other in the Mediterranean area. Note that the vernal equinox (zero Aries) and the winter solstice (zero Capricorn) entered the two signs of faith, Pisces and Sagittarius, in the period just before the Christian era. Though we still have a long period before zero Aries leaves the constellation of Pisces, zero Capricorn left Sagittarius in 1909. We are now in the gap between Sagittarius and Scorpio, though already dealing with Ophiuchus (as discussed above).

Despite feeling cautious about putting too much emphasis on a specific year, I did look up the events of 1909 to see if any seemed relevant to a possible end of an era. Interesting events included the first antibacterial therapeutic drug hence the beginning of chemotherapy in medicine. The Rockefellers began their medical philanthropy. The theory of the gene was formulated, and RNA and DNA were discovered. The existence of different blood types was established. Peary was the first person to reach the North Pole. The first crossing of the English Channel in a heavier-than-air craft was accomplished and the first international air races were held in France. The U.S. had its first transcontinental auto race. Synthetic rubber was produced, and the world’s first polymer, the beginning of plastics. N.Y. acquired two double-deck bridges, connecting Manhattan to Queens and Brooklyn. The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was sent to the states for ratification. It instituted the income tax. The first Kibbutz was started in Palestine, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. It was an interesting year. If we allow 72 years for our cardinal point to finally leave that last degree of Sagittarius, the final parting would be in 1981, in time for Reagan. Have we been abandoning idealism for the negative potentials of Scorpio—greed and power struggles?

The dates for the movement of the cardinal points in front of the constellations were calculated for use during my trip to Greece, but we were mostly so busy sight-seeing and shopping, we did not do as much serious study as I had anticipated. Among the references I had carried on the trip was a book I would like to add to my list of recommended reading. However, it is not to be skimmed. If you want the essence, you can stop with the preface and introduction.

The book is Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana and von Dorchend; it is out of print but possibly available in a library. Their main thesis, developed with masses of illustrations using myths from all over the world, claims that all these different mythological traditions are repeating very similar themes which are connected to astronomy-astrology. Many of our readers will already know that there are flood stories in almost all cultural traditions, from Noah’s ark to the story of Atlantis by Plato. Santillana and von Dorchend connect all of these myths to the same heavenly pattern, our familiar precession of the equinoxes! The authors state that the ancient world used the order in the sky as a way to measure and order Earth. In a variety of mythical tales, the old civilization sank into the sea (one constellation disappeared) and a new one was born on the other side of the sky. When the old order was lost, a hero (Gilgamesh, Hercules, etc.) had to go to the bottom of the sea to bring back a new way to measure.

According to Santillana and von Dorchend, the ancient world’s primary framework of order was what we are calling the cardinal points, the equinoxes and solstices, the dates when the relative length of day and night change. These four dates were the “corners of the circle,” and were marked against the backdrop of the constellations. Eventually, due to precession, the backdrop had changed and a new measure had to be found; a new constellation used; a new age. The authors make a strong case for Plato’s myth of Atlantis being an illustration of this general theme. I think I will have to quote some of the book to give you the real “flavor” of their ideas.

“Creating the language of the philosophy of the future, Plato still spoke the ancient tongue, representing, as it were, a living ‘Rosetta stone.’ And accordingly—strange as it may sound to the specialists on Classical Antiquity—long experience has demonstrated this methodological rule of thumb: every scheme which occurs in myths from Iceland via China to pre- Columbian America, to which we have Platonic allusions, is ‘tottering with age,’ and can be accepted for genuine currency. It comes from that ‘Protopythagorean’ mint somewhere in the Fertile Crescent that, once, coined the technical language and delivered it to the Pythagoreans (among many other customers, as goes without saying). Strange, admittedly, but it works. It has worked before the time when we decided to choose Plato as Supreme Judge of Appeals in doubtful cases of comparative mythology, .....

“Plato knew—and there is reason to assume that Eudoxus did, too—that the language of myth is, in principle, as ruthlessly generalizing as up-to-date ‘tech talk.’ ..... What counts is nothing but the outcome, the result of the happenings told. Generally, it is overlooked that this manner of styling is a technical device only, and the mythographers of old are accused of having ‘believed’ their stories.” ....

“The main merit of this language has turned out to be its built-in ambiguity. Myth can be used as a vehicle for handing down solid knowledge independently from the degree of insight of the people who do the actual telling of stories, fables, etc. In ancient times, moreover, it allowed the members of the archaic ‘brain trust’ to ‘talk shop’ unaffected by the presence of laymen: the danger of giving something away was practically nil.” p. 311-312

A few readers may be shaken at the thought that Atlantis was just another allegory for the precession of the equinoxes. What about all the psychics who tell people about their past lives in Atlantis? I have been skeptical of Atlantis for many years, and the material in Hamlet’s Mill was just further support for my doubts. My current theory is that the thousands of “true believers” in Atlantis have, over the years since Plato, produced a very substantial thought-form of the fabled civilization. By this time, I suspect, any good psychic can tune in to this psychically created Atlantis, and can add his or her ideas to the creation. For a good description of the power of the mind to create thought-forms, read Magic and Mystery in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel. Our minds create our reality, especially on the psychic level where we lack the obstinate earth that makes it a little harder to live totally in our own creations.

For those interested in further discussions of Atlantis, let me recommend a book published by the University of Indiana press, called Atlantis: Fact or Fiction, edited by Edwin S. Ramage, in 1978. The December 1977 issue of Technology Review, published by the Mass. Institute of Technology, also has an interesting article on Atlantis in an issue totally devoted to archeoastronomy. A University library might have back copies. And, while I’m recommending books, if you are interested in the new holistic theories being generated by David Bohm on physics, Prigogine on molecular chemistry, Jantsch and Sheldrake on living systems, Pribram on the brain, etc., do get the book Looking Glass Universe by Briggs and Peat. It is a new selection in at least one book club and should be readily available. It is even reasonable in cost and is the best summary I have seen of the new theories.

Science uses the words “theory” and “hypothesis” for concepts which try to describe and explain the world. I like to call such mental constructs “models.” “Metaphor” is also a good word for the human effort to understand and describe our experiences. The precision of the language and the complexity of the conceptual system tend to decrease as we shift from scientific theories to models using “everyday” language to metaphors which are often largely unconscious, but the basic action is still the human effort to comprehend the world. Our mental structures shape our attitudes, guide our decisions, and determine our destinies.

Most people think of myths as outmoded beliefs of primitive people. But myths are just another form of human mental construct attempting to describe and explain the world. (In the pre- literate world, myths also were mnemonic devices, an aid to memory. For example, the myths of the Australian aborigines provided effective mental maps of their desert territory, enabling them to find water in thousands of possible places—depressions in rocks, low spots, etc.) In psychology, one can explore “personal myths”, personal belief-systems which shape attitudes and actions. Transactional Analysis calls them “life scripts.” One way to get in touch with them is through favorite childhood stories. We tend to re-read the stories in which we can identify with the main character, so the story theme suggests our personal myth or script.

One person’s myth (belief-system including our own role in our conceptual world) is another person’s superstition. The connotations are wildly different, but I see all these words—theory, hypothesis, model, metaphor, religious belief, philosophy, myth—as attempts to attain the same goal: an understanding of life and the ability to cope with it more effectively. I think it is time to stop expecting one model to provide all the answers. Ask, rather, which model will be helpful now? Both Metaphors We Live By and Looking Glass Universe approach that realization. One way to express it is, “Final Truth is a goal. We are always on the journey but we never arrive, at least in this lifetime.”

But theories are the “stuff of life” to mutable people, and since this article has become a philosophical essay, we might as well go for broke and throw in another heresy which may shock as many people as questioning the historical reality of Atlantis. I stopped briefly in New York en route to Greece, and had a rare chance to have a leisurely conversation with Al H. Morrison, the source of many of the new asteroids which I have been enjoying. When two long-time astrologers get together, the conversation is apt to cover the waterfront, but one gem from Al hit me between the eyes. Just in passing, he commented casually, “I really don’t know whether astronomers somehow are led to choose the ‘right’ names for the asteroids they discover, or whether the fact that one is given a name determines the role it will play for us. Do our concepts determine their meaning for us?” I may not be quoting “word for word”, but the gist of the idea turned on a light bulb for me.

Both the book on metaphors mentioned earlier and the Looking Glass Universe, seem to me to be compatible with such a view. They do not deny that there is an objective world with which our minds interrelate, but they do show how our concepts (many of them unconscious) shape our experiences in the world. They are getting closer to the way I conceive the world. Bohm is the hardest to follow since he is still trying to maintain a physical, visual form in describing a connectedness that does not depend on space or time relationships. He has stopped short of the realization that the connectedness is present through meaning! This is basically a psychological world.

Sheldrake and Pribram, similarly, are still groping with physical models, though Sheldrake has admitted that what he calls a “field” operates more like memory, a psychological experience. The latest issue of a journal called Revision has an interview with Arthur Young discussing some of these theoretical issues, including the remark by Sheldrake. It is OK to use words like “energy fields” or “resonance” only if we are clear that the connections are psychological, in terms of shared meaning, memory, desire, goals, values, etc. If this is really the inherent nature of the world, we can understand how our own understanding, desires, values, and goals shape our lives. We come where we fit, and as we change, we are in a new psychological space even if the physical space is unchanged.

So what if it is true that by naming an asteroid, we determine its role in our lives? A great many “primitive” people have realized the power of naming. One of the important values of the new holistic theories is that they are being phrased in ways that can be tested with scientific methods. It is quite possible to test the theory that our concepts about the astrological factors help to determine their actual role in our horoscopes. All we have to do is test the many different types of astrology that have been developed in different areas of the world on the people who accept the ideas! For example, Hindu astrology does not work for me. Does it really work for Hindus? It is hard to know how much is self-fulfilling prophecy, but eventually we should be able to design effective tests. Chinese astrology has five elements. Does that system work well for them?

Of course, such a project is good for several lifetimes. I will be happy if I can test my own version of the cosmic meaning. If I ever stay home long enough!

Copyright © 1984 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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