The turn of the year – the base of natural religion
Posted by Fredsvenn on April 11, 2017
Cultures can vary widely in terms of their conceptualisation of time. Simply put, there are many different ways of thinking about time. We can picture time in different ways, drawing on different sets of imagery, or using different metaphors.
We can understand time in relation to ourselves or in relation to some external frame of reference. We can divide time up in different ways, and have different beliefs about how time affects us. And how we think about time can be intimately related to a host of broader cultural values or beliefs.
In modern western cultures, for instance, we tend to think of time in terms of a three-part structure of past, present, and future, with time moving in one direction without repetition. Though events can repeat themselves, tomorrow is fundamentally different and separate from yesterday.
These conceptualisations are not universal across all cultures, and can also change over time. It should also be said that any given culture may have more than one way of looking at time too.
The general Western notion of the nature of time is that time is linear and progressive. The three major monotheistic religions of the world today (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) view the concept of time as being linear.
They believe in an absolute beginning to Creation (which I will refer to as ‘Point A’) and an absolute end to Creation (‘Point C’) with a definite middle lying in-between those two extremities (‘Point B’) and can be depicted as a straight, forward-travelling line like this: A (beginning)—–>B (middle)—–>C (end).
This conception of time is, naturally, limited and finite. However, the conception of time in the East is quite different to that in the West. In the religion of Hinduism and its offshoot religion Buddhism, the nature of time is non-linear and cyclical.
The stars appear to be creeping backwards out of line with the Earth’s seasons and year in a process known as the Precession of the Equinox.
The zodiac is an area of the sky centered upon the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets also remain close to the ecliptic, within the belt of the zodiac, which extends 8-9° north or south of the ecliptic, as measured in celestial latitude.
In western astrology and (formerly) astronomy, the zodiac is divided into twelve signs, each sign occupying 30° of celestial longitude. Because the signs are regular, they do not correspond exactly to the boundaries of the twelve constellations after which they are named.
The twelve signs form a celestial coordinate system, or more specifically an ecliptic coordinate system, which takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the Sun at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude.
The zodiacal signs are distinct from the constellations associated with them, not only because of their drifting apart due to the precession of equinoxes but also because the physical constellations take up varying widths of the ecliptic, so the Sun is not in each constellation for the same amount of time. Thus, Virgo takes up five times as much ecliptic longitude as Scorpius.
The zodiacal signs are an abstraction from the physical constellations, and each represent exactly one twelfth of the full circle, or the longitude traversed by the Sun in about 30.4 days.
For identical reasons, the apparent position of the Sun relative to the backdrop of the stars at some seasonally fixed time slowly regresses a full 360° through all twelve traditional constellations of the zodiac, at the rate of about 50.3 seconds of arc per year, or 1 degree every 71.6 years.
At present, the rate of precession corresponds to a period of 25 772 years, but the rate itself varies somewhat with time (see Values below), so one cannot say that in exactly 25 772 years the earth’s axis will be back to where it is now.
Astrologers maintain that an astrological age is a product of the earth’s slow precessional rotation and lasts for 2,160 years, on average (26,000-year period of precession / 12 zodiac signs = 2,160 years).
There are various methods of calculating the length of an astrological age. In sun-sign astrology, the first sign is Aries, followed by Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, whereupon the cycle returns to Aries and through the zodiacal signs again.
Astrological ages exist as a result of precession of the equinoxes. The slow wobble of the earth’s spin axis on the celestial sphere is independent of the diurnal rotation of the Earth on its own axis and the annual revolution of the earth around the sun.
Astrological ages, however, proceed in the opposite direction (“retrograde” in astronomy). Therefore, the Age of Aquarius follows the Age of Pisces. “Age of Aquarius” is an astrological term denoting either the current or forthcoming astrological age, depending on the method of calculation.
The approximate 2,150 years for each age corresponds to the average time it takes for the vernal equinox to move from one constellation of the zodiac into the next.
This can be computed by dividing the earth’s 25,800-year gyroscopic precession period by twelve, the number of zodiac constellations used by astrologers.
According to different astrologers’ calculations, approximate dates for entering the Age of Aquarius range from AD 1447 (Terry MacKinnell) to AD 3597 (John Addey).