The ruling by the world's top astronomers to boot
Pluto from the planet category is sending shock waves through another
set of dedicated stargazers: the world of astrologers, who are already
mulling how this turn of events will affect our moods, our lucky
numbers and our chances of getting a date on Saturday night.
For weeks, astrologers have been buzzing about the
proposal approved yesterday at the International Astronomical Union
general assembly in Prague that will recast the map of the solar system
for the first time since 1930. After days of impassioned debate, the
astronomers voted to demote Pluto, the smallest of the nine planets, to
a new class of solar-system bodies called dwarf planets.
Astrologers believe that the positions of the moon,
sun and stars affect human affairs and that people born under the 12
signs of the Zodiac tend to pick up qualities of the planets associated
with those signs. Some astrologers, including leaders of the American
Federation of Astrologers and the Astrological Association of Great
Britain, are standing firmly by Pluto. They say they will continue to
regard the icy orb as a full-blown planet with a powerful pull on our
psyche, despite the astronomers' decision.
"Whether he's a planet, an asteroid, or a radioactive
matzo ball, Pluto has proven himself worthy of a permanent place in all
horoscopes," says Shelley Ackerman, columnist for the spirituality Web
site Beliefnet.com. Ms. Ackerman criticized the IAU for not including
astrologers in its decision.
Others warned that Scorpios -- people born between
Oct. 23 and Nov. 21 -- should be especially cautious in the coming days
because the sign is closely associated with Pluto.
"Scorpios can be extremely explosive, and very direct,
and this could be the trigger that makes them explode," says Milton
Black, an Australian astrologer who claims to have more than 580,000
clients. Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, take note.
All three are Scorpios.
Yesterday's ruling in Prague brought good news to
some. The astronomers indicated that several planet-like bodies --
including the asteroid Ceres and the newly discovered UB313, sometimes
known as Xena -- will also be classified as dwarf planets. That has
generated excitement among a small group of practitioners known as
"minor-planet astrologers" who have long contended that outer-lying
asteroids and ice balls exert a powerful tug on our psychological
makeup. Some astrologers believe that officially introducing new dwarf
planets to the charts might give astrologers additional information
about people, by providing more planetary bodies and forces to study in
"This is a moment that I've been waiting for a long
time," says Eric Francis, a minor-planet astrologer who edits the Web
site Planetwaves.net. "People are finally talking about Charon." Charon
is Pluto's largest moon, which astronomers briefly considered granting
official planet status at the IAU meeting.
Mr. Francis and many other minor-planet enthusiasts
are interested in raising awareness about Charon and the new dwarf
planets, Ceres and UB313, in part because they consider them female
planets that would symbolize a rush of new maternal energy into the
"Most of our clients are women, and we need stories
women can relate to," says Mr. Francis. (A planet's sex is determined
largely by the name given to it by astronomers.)
StarIQ.com astrologer Michael Wolfstar suggests that
the asteroid Ceres is a humanitarian, compassionate force "associated
with relief operations, the food industry, and parent-child
relationships." According to the site, she is currently pushing for
"the return of refugees to southern Lebanon" and "reforms in the
Even before the vote, some astrology Web sites were
welcoming the potential new arrivals to the planetary fold and buzzing
about how they might affect current world events, including the future
of JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr. "As Ceres goes on to
oppose realistic Saturn, the astrologer might reasonably expect that
the DNA evidence won't match," wrote Mr. Wolfstar earlier this week.
Mr. Wolfstar says Ceres's association with the
parent-child relationship connects her to the Ramsey case. At the time
of Mr. Karr's arrest, Ceres was opposing Neptune, a planet involved
with imagination and fantasy. Mr. Wolfstar says that opposition may
imply that the confession wasn't reliable.
The IAU decision had less impact on some older
branches of astrology that already ignore the influence of more
recently discovered planets, such as Uranus (discovered in 1781) and
Neptune (discovered in 1846). In the Indian tradition of Vedic
astrology, for example, astrologers generally use only the first five
planets. A small group of classical astrologers in the West use only
the first seven. Modern astrologers, who account for an estimated 90%
of American practitioners, have long worked with a nine-planet system.
This is also not the first time a new discovery has
rocked the astrology world. In 1977, astronomer Charles Kowal
discovered Chiron, a comet located between Saturn and Uranus. Some
astrologers welcomed Chiron into the planetary fold, and many still use
Companies that make chart-reading software for
astrologers currently are adjusting their products to include more
information on dwarf planets. Astrolabe, an astrology software company
in Brewster, Mass., released a software patch this week for users that
provides additional information on the asteroid Ceres.
"As soon as the orbital elements are released, we can
incorporate new asteroids into the software," says Madalyn
Hillis-Dineen, marketing director for the company. But, she adds, the
company isn't about to turn its back on Pluto.
Horoscope columnists are wrestling with whether to
incorporate the new crop of dwarf planets into their chart readings.
Michael Lutin, columnist for Vanity Fair, says he will consider the
newcomers. But he notes that they aren't likely to have massive impact
on our personal lives because of their location at the outer reaches of
the solar system: "UB313 is never going to tell you whether Wednesday
is good for romance."