Astrologers remain divided about the increasing number of people choosing to undergo Star Sign Reassignment.
As little as ten years ago it was believed that natal charts were fixed at the time of birth, and that lives would inevitably follow the courses those charts foretold. Then Professor Claire Voyant from Scotland's Skye University performed the pioneering procedure that changed the star sign of Mrs Stella McTarot of Glasgow from Taurus with Capricorn rising to Aquarius with Sagittarius rising.
Clinical follow-up confirmed that the personality and fortunes of Mrs McTarot had been transformed. 'Ah used tae be pure borin' an' ne'er gart onie bunsens,' she told the Glasgow Herald in 2003. 'Noo I'm imaginatife an' innovatife an' hae jist earned mah first million poonds.'
Initially it was only possible to effect simple transformations such as that from Taurus to Aquarius. During the past decade, however, huge progress has been made in star charting due to observations made with the Hubble and other telescopes. There have also been substantial advances in astrological mathematics. This has allowed the use of more distant stars in fine-tuning the gravitational and electrical fields within Star Sign Reassignment chambers - a subject for which Professor Voyant received the Nobel Prize for Astrology in 2005.
'It has now become routine,' confirmed Professor Voyant in a recent BBC News interview, 'to modify astrological birth charts, post-natally. We can now safely undertake even the highly sophisticated transformation from Libra with Pisces rising to Aries with Leo rising. We never thought we would come this far, this quickly.'
Opponents of Star Sign Reassignment, including the Catholic Church, argue that SSR is against the laws of nature, and that the long term effects of so many people changing their own destinies are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Radical groups of dissenting astrologers, such as the Anti-SSR League, have claimed responsibility for several bomb attacks. 'SSR must be outlawed,' angrily demanded a balaclava-clad activist during a recent protest, 'or we will continue to ruthlessly target individuals and organisations who undertake work in this field.'
In the UK most SSRs are undertaken privately, although the NHS will fund treatment in exceptional cases where no viable alternative therapies exist. Mr Joss Stick of Basingstoke recently took his local Heath Authority to the High Court when they refused to fund his SSR. The Court found in his favour. The judgement concluded that the ultimate cost to the NHS of all the illnesses predicted by Mr Stick's natal chart would significantly exceed the cost of SSR. This was even without the future costs to society and the criminal justice system of all his predicted heinous crimes.
Particularly controversial are British Government proposals for 'Compulsory SSR Orders' for persistent or dangerous offenders. Supporters point to the success of such legislation in America. 'All inmates on Death Rows have been released as model citizens with great prospects,' confirmed a spokesperson for the US Justice Department. 'We are particularly pleased about the conversion of so many Al-Qaeda supporters to Buddhism.'
Opponents, however, have highlighted alleged abuses of human rights within the American compulsory SSR process due to the choice of new natal charts being made by the State rather than the individual. 'They're all reassigned to a natal chart that ensures hard work and total compliance with every law,' highlighted a representative of Amnesty International. 'How long will it be before governments start to covertly use SSR as a means of creating compliant citizens who simply choose to support the status quo?'
Concern has also been raised about the recent fashion trend of using SSR to adopt celebrity natal charts. It is believed that nearly half a million American women are currently emulating Angelina Jolie. Fears have been expressed that by 2020 all Americans might choose to be Hollywood superstars, leaving no one to service the country's infrastructure.
Giving evidence to a US Senate Special Committee, Professor Voyant agreed that proper controls were required in the use of SSR. 'However,' she added, 'I believe it to be immoral to deprive people on ideological grounds of the life-changing opportunities afforded by this process.'