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The signs of the Zodiac are simply Earth's own resonances in the sky...

By John Townley, March 2015

The first thing anyone hears about astrology in the pop columns is Sun signs (and signs in general), which while not being the whole story are a major part of astrology. And yet it’s the last thing any real astrologer actually has a good explanation for, and is the subject of much argument, from astrologer and debunker alike. Is it about constellations (sidereal), seasons (tropical); does it come from out there, or in here; is it the same everywhere (Northern and Southern hemispheres); is it permanent, or does it change with time?

We’ve asked the questions that clarify the options and given suggestions for a physical approach that answers all of these, which is a little complex and theoretical, but for some, here’s a more hands-on, or ears-on, approach.

We’ve consistently compared the cycles of the planets – from the slowest and outermost (245+ years) to the subsets of the 24-hour diurnal cycle – to waves and cycles at more familiar scales , like music (cycles per second), rhythm (beats per minute), and visible light (a much higher, single octave). What gives all three their discernible variations is not only speed but their phase and how they interact with each other.

Earth's rotation puts a regular ripple in it's overall orbital tone, which changes phase over the year to produce the signs.

In no place is that more obvious than simple musical tone. When amplified electric musical instruments first came into major play in the 1960s, what you did with your amplifier and speaker had a lot to do with the distinct stylistic “sound” you had. A simple electric guitar sound could be pretty plain and monotonous, but with the right amp and speakers, everything changed. First came distortion, which took a fairly simple tone/wave and pushed it out of whack, causing all sorts of interference and push-pull at multiple frequencies – think fuzztone, funky blues, heavy metal sound. Lower that to a planetary level, and it’s Earth’s own cycle getting constantly modified, pushed and pulled, by the other planets. Literally, physically, it’s closely analogous. At a shorter scale, it’s also similar to winds in the sky and tidal waves in the ocean, playing their own rock and roll, at the behest of both diurnal and lunar cycles.

But there’s another level of everyday musical timbre that comes from simply two signals interacting: it’s called phasing. In fact, if you’re a pop musician, you’re probably familiar with effects plug-ins variously labeled phaser, chorus, flange, and the like. They’re all now electrical processors, but the original was actually mechanical – a revolving speaker cabinet called a Leslie. It took the speaker amplifying the simple sound from a Hammond organ and spun it around on an axis, just like the Earth’s. The effect was to raise and lower the perceived pitch rhythmically, due to the Doppler effect. This is rather what the spin of the Earth does to its yearly frequency, and the tilt of the Earth changes how that relative 365:1 interplay occurs as the poles either point to the Sun (at solstice) or don’t (as at equinox), giving not only a Doppler effect, but a warbling 23½ degree varying phase shift as well, as the spin of the earth's surface alternately adds to or subtracts from the orbital frequency, which varies with time of day and season. And how does this divide up in a generally circular pattern? In sixes and twelves, as we explained here, not unrelated to the larger Lagrange divisions.

The Leslie cabinet for the Hammond organ reproduces the orbital phase effect, producing varying, rich tonal textures.

So, the astrological result is twelve different segments that “sound” distinctively different, when the Sun or anything else appears to pass through them, simply sharing their general angle of incindence to Earth's spin. In a perfectly balanced and circular system, that would make the Northern and Southern signs interchangeable, but Earth’s orbit is not exactly circular, but slightly elliptical, and it isn’t precisely centered on the Sun, but is closer in the winter than summer. In addition, the greatest gravitational pull outside of our system (the Galactic Center) is on only one side, parallel to neither our spin nor revolution, so the forces playing on our system are in no fashion bilaterally symmetrical. The result is a set of twelve segments in time and space each of which has its own unique and distinctive timbre determined by our changing diurnal angular motion in relation to where we are along the ecliptic. In fact, when you consider the multi-directional motions we are making through space and how they mesh with the forces driving them, pushing and pulling us and each other around, it's a wonder the signs are as consistent as they are. For a wonderful tour-de-force, explanations and animations, on that, go here, don't miss it.

Still, although over the millennia and around the world different civilizations have given these distinct segments/signs different names,  they individually tend to retain their basic perceived qualities across cultural and historical borders. In the course of twenty million years, much of this changes and evolves (as may the meanings of the signs, given tie), but in our shorter snapshot term of recorded human history, it's all the same. 

And of course, there’s another, distracting middle-scale body between the Earth’s revolution and rotation cycles, and that’s the Moon, which throws in its own addition to the sound. So much so that to some, it’s considered the main spatial divider – the 28 daily mansions of the Moon are China’s choice for spatial location, while their twelvefold animal Zodiac is actually a division of time (an 11.858 yr. Jupiter cycle, entrainment-tuned by the solar cycle to 12). India uses both the 12 and 28 divisions, and the West in modern times uses almost exclusively the 12. But regardless, what’s happening is a modification of one orbital period (or “sound”) by another, which gives unique, qualitatively identifiable signatures to the multiple segments of each.

  Our orbit is not circular(l), but elliptical(r), also seasonally off-center, making each sign have its own, unique phase/texture.

Curiously enough, the Leslie speaker noted above has a very similar triple configuration, in which a set of faster, high-frequency spinning speakers (1) mix with a slower, lower-frequency spinning sound baffle (2) to modify the basic organ sound (3), closely analogous to the diurnal and lunar modifications of Earth’s own signal. One could have been patterned after the other. Here’s a short video of it in action, another historical short explanation, and here’s an extensive outline of its inner workings. Fun stuff, and astonishingly exemplifies the principle.

All in all, at a much slower rate, the planetary symphony is highly akin to what we experience as music, and the individual planetary notes have their own pitch and timbre based on frequency and phase, for us further modulated by Earth’s own diurnal/orbital filter. And, like music, sometimes they blend nicely, and at other times, when the waves themselves are beating against each other, it can seem more like a storm of cacophony!

Finally, the similarities across  the board seem to indicate a repeating pattern of interrelationships at multiple scales which all follow a similar set of rules, with the lower frequencies tending to entrain the higher. Just as a drumbeat turns into a musical tone when scaled higher (and then, higher than that, light), the multiple scaling of much slower/lower orbital and rotational cycles mix together to make up distinct overtone series and thus the quality and texture of the signs themselves. As above, so below, indeed, and all very physical (though also very complex) in nature.


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