I had been an astrologer for very many years, diligently generating predictions from the ancient charts for both private clients and national periodicals.
For much of that time, however, I had harboured an unspoken suspicion that something was not quite right. It seemed to me that predictions were frequently inaccurate - in fact they were nearly always completely wrong.
I had, nevertheless, sworn the Astrologers' Oath - a sacred vow to never question the ancient wisdom and to shun the pernicious beliefs of science. I therefore rationalised my prophetic errors as being somehow due to my clients living their lives incorrectly.
Then one day I made a mistake while constructing a chart. The real birthday of my subject was 3rd June and so I should have been devising a horoscope for a star sign of Gemini. I had incorrectly noted her birth date as 3rd May, however, and so made my predictions as if she had been born under Taurus. Several months later, I learned that this chart had been the most accurate I had ever produced. Her husband had left her, her car had been stolen and her house had burned down almost to the minute of my forecasts.
Imagine my amazement and confusion when I subsequently realised that I had computed her chart for the wrong date. It was as if her whole life had been reflected in the heavens a month before she was born.
I recalculated the charts for two of my relatives and for my next door neighbour, deducting one month from their birth dates. The new forecasts for my relatives showed the same remarkable accuracy. If only I had discovered this earlier and warned Uncle Arthur against swimming at Shark Bay.
Curiously, the recalculation for my neighbour led to predictions that were as incorrect as they had ever been. For some reason, one could not deduct a month from 10th December and get an accurate reading for a Sagittarius by computing for a Scorpio.
Something strange was clearly occurring on the celestial sphere, but to discover what, I would have to break the Astrologers' Oath by referring to the dangerous and forbidden practice of astronomy.
I agonised over this for many days before finally resolving to discover the truth.
I obtained photographs of Patrick Moore, purchased similar clothes and had my hair cut in a matching style. Thus disguised as an astronomer, and without my mystic, topaz pendant, I entered the bookshop of the Science Museum.
Hands slightly trembling and with sweat on my brow, I selected an encyclopaedia of astronomy and a set of star charts from the shelves and then made my way to the checkout.
As I reached the till, a middle aged woman approached me.
'Excuse me,' she said, glancing at my proposed purchases, 'aren't you that astrologer from the Daily News?'
'Er… Good heavens, no,' I replied, attempting to feign amusement. 'I don't believe in all that superstitious nonsense.' I nodded towards the books I was holding. 'It's astronomy for me!'
The woman eyed me suspiciously. Fortunately, exactly at that moment, she was distracted by a friend who wanted to show her a Science Museum tea towel. I seized the opportunity by quickly giving the girl on the checkout forty pounds to cover my purchases, telling her to keep the change, and then hurrying towards the exit.
I was breathless and my heart was pounding as I stood on the pavement of Exhibition Road. I was nevertheless exhilarated. The books I was holding put me in clear breach of the Astrologers' Oath. I was probably, however, the only astrologer in the world to possess an encyclopaedia of astronomy and a set of modern star charts.
As soon as I got home I locked the doors and spread the charts across the floor. The ecliptic, or path of the sun across the sky, was clearly marked. I began to note the dates on which the sun entered and left each constellation of the zodiac.
I was staggered. There was virtually no correlation between the dates I associated with the signs of the zodiac and the dates when the sun was actually within those constellations. I have reproduced below a table of my original findings so that readers of this testimony can see for themselves what I discovered.
I reached for my encyclopaedia of astronomy for an explanation.
It appeared that the earth wobbles on its axis such that, over thousands of years, a line through the poles traces a circle on the sky. The planet takes 25,800 years to complete that circle. Astronomers call this phenomenon "precession", and it causes the apparent positions of the constellations in the sky at any specific time of year to gradually change. The astrological timings I had always used were two thousand years out of date!
I was still reeling from this revelation when a second fact became apparent. The period that the sun was within any specific constellation of the zodiac was not around a calendar month. Depending on the constellation, it varied from 7 to 45 days. Even without the problem of precession, natal charts would still be wildly inaccurate without correcting for those durations!
Just when I thought that matters could not become more dire for the ancient art, I discovered the most devastating new fact about the constellations of the zodiac. There are thirteen!!
Between the 30th November and 17th December the sun is in the constellation of Ophiuchus. I had never heard of it!
I thought back to the inaccuracy of the chart for my neighbour, George. His birthday was on the 10th December. It was small wonder that I had not been able to make accurate predictions for him when he had been born under a sign of the zodiac that was not even in the almanac!
After such emotional upheavals, the fact that there was neither a constellation named Scorpio nor one named Capricorn were but minor worries, the correct names being Scorpius and Capricornus.
How could we have all been so wrong? I thought as I gazed from my office window at the sunlit garden. I then suddenly realised that there was no direct way of seeing where the sun was in relation to the celestial sphere except during a total eclipse of the sun. The stars were invisible when the sun was in the sky. It would need astronomy and mathematics to work it out. Why didn't those bastard astronomers tell us!!
When I had recovered from this onslaught of revelations, I decided to investigate the sign of Ophiuchus more closely. This was partly because I could then recalibrate the chart for George, but also because I had been born on 2nd December and so was also an Ophiuchus.
There was no guidance in the astrological literature, so I chose to look at the lives of those who had been born under that sign and try to abstract the common features.
After many days of correlating these to the actual position of the sun as it moved through Ophiuchus, I felt ready to recalculate a chart for George.
On the chart were all the events he had described to me from his childhood. I could see the day that he had moved-in next door. I could see the day of his marriage to Joyce, and then there was... I was stunned.
My thoughts returned to the date two years previously when George had reported that Joyce had left him. I had thought it very brave of him to deal with his immediate grief by putting all his efforts into making that new concrete patio… Now it all made sense.
It was never discovered who made the anonymous call to the police.
As for me, my chart showed a comfortable retirement in the South of France after winning the football pools twice, following my discovery of how to accurately predict events from the stars.
All this was, of course, forty years ago. I thought it best not to mention what I had found, or everybody would have been at it. I thought the game was up, however, in the mid 1990s when Ophiuchus began to be talked about. There was even an article in Time magazine in January 2011.
Fortunately, the reactionary paranoia of fellow astrologers saved the day. Rather than recalculating charts, most treated discussion of precession and Ophiuchus as yet another attack on the mystic art by ill-informed scientists. They argued that the positions of the constellations were irrelevant as predictions were related to the seasons and the annual movement of the sun. Even I thought that this rather pushed the boundaries of credibility as it argued, in effect, that astrology had nothing to do with the stars.
So why am I revealing all this now? Well, accurate astrological predictions have served me very well, apart from perhaps predicting just one thing that I would rather not have known. That one thing has led me to share my discovery with the world today.
Sadly, at 2.04 am tomorrow morning my fatal heart attack will be unpreventable. It has all been foretold in the stars.
Traditional Astrological Dates
(No of days in brackets)
Aries 21 Mar - 19 Apr (30)
Taurus 20 Apr - 20 May (31)
Gemini 21 May - 20 Jun (31)
Cancer 21 Jun - 22 Jul (32)
Leo 23 Jul - 22 Aug (31)
Virgo 23 Aug - 22 Sep (31)
Libra 23 Sep - 22 Oct (30)
Scorpio 23 Oct - 21 Nov (30)
Sagittarius 22 Nov - 21 Dec (30)
Capricorn 22 Dec - 19 Jan (29)
Aquarius 20 Jan - 18 Feb (30)
Pisces 19 Feb - 20 Mar (30-31)
Dates Taken From My Modern Star Charts
(No of days in brackets)
Aries 19 Apr - 13 May (25)
Taurus 14 May - 19 Jun (37)
Gemini 20 Jun - 20 Jul (31)
Cancer 21 Jul - 9 Aug (20)
Leo 10 Aug - 15 Sep (37)
Virgo 16 Sep - 30 Oct (45)
Libra 31 Oct - 22 Nov (23)
Scorpius 23 Nov - 29 Nov (7)
Ophiuchus 30 Nov - 17 Dec (18)
Sagittarius 18 Dec - 18 Jan (32)
Capricornus 19 Jan - 15 Feb (28)
Aquarius 16 Feb - 11 Mar (24-25)
Pisces 12 Mar - 18 Apr (38)