How do we know when the Age of Aquarius starts?

The Tropical Zodiac, as used in Western astrology, is based on the Spring (Vernal) Equinox point.  On this day, when the Sun crosses the Equator heading north, day and night are of equal length. The Sun rises exactly due East and sets due West.  The shadow of an upright staff at sunrise will be coincident with its shadow at sunset on that day and only one other (the Autumn Equinox).  Thus the Spring Equinox point in time can be easily determined.  The Zodiac degree where the Sun is to be found on this day is referred to as the First Point of Aries, and is 0° Aries in the Tropical Zodiac.  The other signs follow at 30° intervals; all are of equal length.

The Spring Equinox point, where the ecliptic crosses the Celestial Equator, is not fixed relative to the stars however, but travels backwards through the constellations at the rate of one degree every 72 years.  The time from when it enters a constellation to when it leaves 2160 years later is called a Great Month or Age (as in Age of Pisces).

The Spring Equinox point was on 0° of the stars of the Ram at the end of the Age of Aries.  Since then, it has moved backwards over the stars of the Fishes and is currently somewhere around the cusp of the Fishes and the Water-bearer.  When it enters the constellation of the Water-bearer, the Age of Aquarius will begin.

The problem is that the constellations themselves are rather vaguely defined and their boundaries open to interpretation.  Nobody agrees on exactly where the divisions among the actual stars should be made.  There are systems of sidereal (star-based) astrology that use unequal constellation lengths, to better reflect the relative sizes of the star groups along the ecliptic.  I prefer to use 12 equal divisions  –  all measurements are artificial so why make it hard for yourself? –  but the situation is open to further research.

At the beginning of each Age, Tropical Zodiac signs are lined up exactly with constellations.  The First Point of Aries is then at the start of a constellation, and by definition, the start of the first sign of a Tropical Zodiac.  When the Age of Taurus gave way to that of Aries, around 4,000 years ago, there seems to be some evidence that the ancient Egyptians corrected their Zodiacs accordingly.  At the start of the Age of Aquarius, the Spring Equinox point would be at 30° in the constellation of the Water-bearer, and 0° in the sign of Aries.  The sign of Aries would thus be exactly coincident with the stars of the Fishes.  At this time, it would be useful to consider renaming the Tropical signs to reflect this.

The Hindus, who have continually corrected their astrology for precession, have 3 different systems. The main one uses the star Spica as the beginning of the sign of the Scales.  In our Tropical Zodiac, Spica is at 23°50’ Libra (all star positions here are corrected for precession up to 1/1/2000).  This would mean that 23.5 x 72 = 1692 years have gone by since the Age of Pisces began in 308 AD, and that the Age of Aquarius would begin in 2468 AD.  Many people feel that this does not fit in with the major periods of change in our history, nor with the increasing influence of Aquarian elements in our present time.

The Coptic Christians, believed to continue the Egyptian Pharaonic traditions, celebrated the change of Age around 500 AD; this would give the start of the Age of Aquarius as around 2660 AD.  Many other dates have been given, for varying reasons.  Most are still to come; few authors consider that we are already in the Age of Aquarius.

The main criteria for choosing where to start measuring the constellations is to find a bright star which lies on the ecliptic path and is close to the beginning of a star group.  Spica is one good choice; Regulus at the start of the Lion is another.  Its current position in our Tropical Zodiac is 29°50’ Leo.  In the year 2012, it would be exactly on the cusp of the signs of Leo and Virgo.  If it were decided that Regulus should mark the starting point from which the constellations were divided into 12 equal groups, this date would be the beginning of the Age of Aquarius.  The Age of Pisces would have started in 148 BC.

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