An Age Old Mistake That Still Haunts Astrologers

©  Copyright Terry MacKinnell 2011, 2016 Under the Berne Convention

The ancient Greek astronomer-astrologer Hipparchus in the late 2nd century BC introduced the Vernal Point (VP) as the calibration technique for the astrological ages based on the VPs position amongst the zodiacal constellations.  The VP is the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox around 21st March each year. Hipparchus commenced the tradition of calibrating the astrological ages based on the location of the VP in one of the 12 zodiacal constellations.  This is a mathematical technique as it is not possible to actually see which constellation the Sun is ever located within as it is always daytime when the Sun is visible.

Sunrise in Baghdad, Iraq 20 March 2016
Sunrise in Baghdad, Iraq 20 March 2016

The above illustration shows the Sun rising at the vernal equinox on the 20th March 2016 in Baghdad, Iraq (in deference to the Sumerian and Mesopotamian astronomer-astrologers who defined the zodiacal constellations thousands of years ago).  The inclusion of the zodiacal constellation boundaries is for reference purposes. The constellation of Aquarius sits well above the horizon and the Sun is located in one arm of the constellation of Pisces.  The constellation boundaries are irrelevant for astrological purposes as they have been defined by modern pagan astronomers.  Furthermore there is no evidence the ancients had constellational borders.  The real estate style subdivision of the sky into constellation is a modern phenomenon.  Based on Hipparchus’ system, the above indicates the world is currently in the Age of Pisces.

The VP has been in the constellation of Pisces for two thousand years or more and remains in the constellation of Pisces.  This is why most astrologers claim we remain in the Age of Pisces.  Most research astrologers accept the zodiacal constellations as symbolic markers only for the 12 sidereal signs of exactly 30 degrees each.  The sidereal zodiac was invented by the ancient Greeks (or Babylonian astrologers) to tidy up the zodiacal constellations in their evolving practice of horoscopic astrology.

 A portrait of Hipparchus of Nicaea from "The School of Athens" by Raphael
A portrait of Hipparchus of Nicaea from “The School of Athens” by Raphael

Unfortunately for astrologers over the following period (equivalent to the length of an age), Hipparchus failed to realize that the old zodiacal constellations had a much older method of calibration. The older method of calibrating the zodiacal constellations is a visual technique. All old astronomical techniques were visual—mathematics took an insignificant role in ancient astronomy. Hipparchus did not use the ages old visual technique as he was obviously transfixed by the new mathematical techniques developed in his era.

I am much indebted to a paper by Rumen Kolev—Some Reflections about Babylonian Astrology.[1] In this paper, Kolev explains the five basic principles applied to ancient astronomy techniques in Babylon. In summary, three of these principles state the visible light directly received from a stellar object was of primary concern, as the ancients believed “God is Light.” In those days, the view of the heavens by the unaided eye was the only method of determining astronomical phenomena. The other two principles are that the two key times for astronomical observations are around Sunrise and Sunset.

In ancient times, the telescope was preceded by the line of the horizon and Neugebauer states that Babylonian astronomers were mainly concerned about astronomical phenomena on the horizon.[2] For example, a major Babylonian text dated 1400–1000 BCE supplies the heliacal rising dates of thirty-four stars and constellations according to their 360-day annual calendar.[3] In ancient Upper Egypt, the heliacal rising of the star Sirius marked the beginning of the year.[4]

The heliacal rising of a star or planet is its first appearance on the eastern horizon in the early morning sky just before the rays of the Sun obliterate the stars from the night sky. The term “heliacal rising” unfortunately has different interpretations.  The definition of the “true heliacal rising” is when a star or planet, etc., rises with the Sun but because the Sun is visible the planet or star cannot be seen.  This is the ‘mathematical’ system employed by Hipparchus as the position of the Sun in a constellation must be calculated.

The alternative to the “true helical rising” is the “visible heliacal rising” when a star or planet, etc., can be seen on the eastern horizon just before the approaching sunlight obliterates the star or planet from view.[5] My use of the term “heliacal rising” refers exclusively to the visible heliacal rising. In most ancient societies, the visible heliacal rising (or setting) of a stellar object was one of the most important calibration techniques applied to a stellar object.  The “true” heliacal rising technique is a ‘modern’ mathematical technique probably invented by Hipparchus.

The ancient Greek author Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer, mentions the heliacal risings of the star Arcturus and asterism, the Pleiades, as if the reader of his times clearly understood what he was talking about.[6] To many ancient people, the heliacal phenomena of stars and constellations were an integral part of their calendar. In practical terms, the heliacal rising of a body occurs about one hour before Sunrise, but this will vary with latitude, season, and the brightness of the bodies involved. Rumen Kolev also states the heliacal rising (or setting) of a stellar object must occur before the Sun rises (or after it sets)[7] which is another way of saying the “visible heliacal rising”.

Gavin White in his book Babylonian Star-Lore proposes the most relevant astronomical feature of ancient times (presumably other than the position of the Sun and Moon) were the stars on the eastern horizon just before dawn.[8] White goes further and claims that the first star maps were actually a calendar in the sky, with the equinoxes and solstices as the reference grid for the calendar.[9] In the earliest times of civilization, mankind referred to the stars in their heliacal mode with a specific focus upon the two annual equinoxes and solstices. Their New Year, commencing at the spring equinox, elevates this point above the autumn equinox and two solstices.

This ancient view of the cosmos is basically in agreement with my approach to the astrological ages based on precession. The modern approach to calibrating the ages using the Vernal Point developed by Hipparchus is incongruous to the original methods of observing the stars and constellations. This incongruity of using the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox as the calibrator for the astrological ages is put into context by Nicholas Campion, who states that in observational astronomy it makes no sense to place the Sun in a constellation or among stars, because whenever the Sun is visible the stars are not.[10] Observational astronomy was the astronomy of the ancients.

Elementary astronomy provides the reason why my rectification of the ages is half a sign in advance of the accepted norm amongst astrologers until now – it is because the commonly accepted ages based on the VP are half an age late! The VP is located at the Sun’s position on the vernal equinox (around 21 March each year). The heliacal zodiacal constellation is viewed approximately one hour before the Sun rises. As students, most of us are taught the Earth rotates on its own axis once per day, and all 360 degrees rise above the horizon in twenty-four hours. Therefore, in two hours, on average, thirty degrees (or one zodiacal sign) will rise up over the horizon.  In one hour, approximately, fifteen degrees of the ecliptic rises—this is equivalent to half a zodiacal sign. This is the source of the discrepancy between the ages as defined by Hipparchus and the ages based on the ancient visible heliacal method. The difference between the ancient techniques of the heliacal rising zodiacal constellation at the VE compared to the modern VP method is approximately fifteen degrees, half a sign/age or about 1,075 years.  In ancient times, the zodiacal constellations were meant to be read via their visible heliacal position when applied to the astrological ages. The error Hipparchus made in 127 BCE when he inadvertently used the VP in place of the visible heliacal method delayed his ages by approximately 1,075 years.

I am not the only researcher who acknowledges the heliacal rising of the zodiacal constellations at the spring equinox as the astronomical framework for the ages. The archeo-astronomer Sepp Rothwangl in Considerations About the Start of the Age of Aquarius[11] claims that, in ancient times, a new constellation rising on the eastern horizon before Sunrise on the morning of the Northern Hemisphere spring equinox was the main criterion for the start of a New Age. Rothwangl also states that such a change from Pisces to Aquarius has already occurred, thus indicating the arrival of the new Age of Aquarius.

Hipparchus suffered from a calibration error when he applied the VP method to precession and astronomers and astrologers have adhered to this erroneous VP calibration technique ever since.  If the ancient heliacal method is applied to the zodiacal signs, a very different time frame is provided compared to the Vernal Point method. For example, in 2016 at the vernal equinox, the Sun (VP) sits in the constellation of Pisces, though the constellation of Pisces cannot be seen. The Vernal Point will remain in the constellation of Pisces for many more centuries. However, if you are awake one hour before dawn, when the stars are still visible on the eastern horizon, the last stars seen rising up from the eastern horizon before the sky turns blue is the constellation of Aquarius.

One hour before sunrise 20 March 2016 in Baghdad, Iraq
One hour before sunrise 20 March 2016 in Baghdad, Iraq


The above illustration one hour before dawn on 20th March 2016 in Baghdad shows the constellation of Aquarius sitting just above the horizon with no stars visible in the constellation of Pisces.

Therefore, the constellation of Aquarius is currently the visible heliacal rising constellation. The constellation of Aquarius has been the visible heliacal rising constellation for centuries. The conundrum is that, based on the Vernal Point located in the constellation of Pisces, we are supposedly in the Age of Pisces and will remain so for many centuries while based on the visible heliacal rising of the constellation of Aquarius, we are in the Age of Aquarius and have been in the Age of Aquarius for centuries.  The latter assertion is substantiated by historians who claim the arrival of Modernity occurred about 500 years ago.[13]

It is one thing for an astrologer-astronomer from over 2,000 years ago to make a mistake, but to not correct this mistake at the first opportunity is another massive mistake by astrologers.

The Five Most Popular Posts for Further Investigation

The Age of Aquarius for Dummies

The Aquarian age did not begin in the 1960’s or ’70s

SCORPIO – the Sign of the Times …. Revisited – Part 1

Females, Women and Feminists in the Age of Aquarius

Generational Astrology – Introduction (Part 1)


Star illustrations courtesy of Stellarium software –

A portrait of Hipparchus – Wikipedia,


[1] Rumen Kolev, “Some Reflections about Babylonian Astrology,”

[2] The Exact Sciences In Antiquity, p. 98

[3] “MUL.APIN.” Wikipedia. Retrieved 02:15, 16 June 2008,

[4] Ronald A Wells, “Astronomy in Egypt,” Astronomy Before the Telescope, p. 34

[5] Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars, p. 323

[6] Shining in the Ancient Sea, p. 41

[7] Rumen Kolev, “Some Reflections about Babylonian Astrology,”

[8] Babylonian Star-Lore, pp. 8–9

[9] Babylonian Star-Lore, p. 23

[10] The Dawn of Astrology, p. 81

[11] Sepp Rothwangl, “Considerations About the Start of the Age of Aquarius,” (Retrieved 3 April 2007)

[12] John H Rogers, “Origins of the ancient constellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions,” Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 108, 1, 1998, p. 9

[13] Modernity. (2016, March 12), Wikipedia, Retrieved 08:27, March 14, 2016, from



The above is a modified extract from “The Dawning – Shedding New Light on the Astrological Ages

The Dawning by Terry MacKinnell

Join the Macro-Astrology group to keep on track with the evolving conversation on the astrological ages.  I post to many groups and sites but nearly all these posts are also published at the Macro-Astrology FaceBook group like a central depository:



Waiting for Ages

Some years ago I watched a swords and sandal epic movie (produced in Italy with English sub-titles) about an old Grecian legend involving titans, monsters heroes etc.  The titans had just been released from some kind of very long captivity from a previous age.  One titan (in human form) was chatting with a barmaid and said “I have been waiting for ages to meet someone as beautiful as you”.  This innocuous story led me to consider how the astrological ages correspond with developments with the astrological ages.  Allegorically this could be likened to the astrological ages navel gazing.

The ‘modern’ approach to the astrological ages was kicked off by the Greek astronomer-astrologer Hipparchus in the late 2nd century BC when he irrefutably discovered the slow eastward shift of the stars due to the precession of the equinoxes.  This newly perceived perspective from around 127 BC (for the Greeks at least) allowed Hipparchus to conceptualize the astrological ages.  This occurred in the previous Scorpio sub-age (189 – 8 BC) – specifically extremely close to the first sub-age decan cusp around 129 BC, the Cancer sub-age decan cusp.

Jump forward to modern times, and the equivalent to 127 BC is 1853 AD (equivalent in the sense that both 1853 AD and 127 BC exist two years past their respective Cancer sub-age decan cusp).  There is also another way of relating specific periods between different ages.  Each age is approximately 2150 years.  Add 2150 years (an age) to 127 BCE and we arrive at 2024 AD.  At a minimum, we know that the period 1853 to 2012 (leading to 2024) has experienced a revolution in the acceptance, understanding or recognition of the astrological ages in modern times along with a massive resurgence of interest in astrology. 

In the 19th century Blavatsky, who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, popularized the concept of a new age commencing in 1888 and some of her followers specifically addressed the Age of Aquarius.  This marks a new age for the astrological ages rising to a crescendo in the late 1960s when the musical Hair proudly proclaimed in its first song ‘this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius’.  References to the Age of Aquarius are now so ubiquitous, that on any day, about half a dozen references can be found in the media (especially in the USA), and particularly promoting the urban myth that the Age of Aquarius arrived in the 1960s and 70s.  In following the press and online articles, many commentators suggest that the Age of Aquarius lasted 10 or 20 years as the world seems to have moved away from the Age of Aquarius in recent decades.

Therefore in the two periods associated with highpoints for the astrological ages, both are associated with a Scorpio sub-age and both periods are about one age apart.  The next area of interest is another age before Hipparchus discovered precession.  Using both methods as applied above, 2150 years before 127 BC takes us back to 2277 BC based on an age with an average of 2150 years.  Two years past the Cancer sub-age decan cusp of the ancient Scorpio sub-age (2188 – 2006 BC) places us around the year 2125 BC.  Therefore the period 2277 to 2125 is the target period for an ancient highpoint related to the astrological ages.  For many people this is ridiculous because in academia, precession of the equinoxes was only discovered by Hipparchus around 127 BC.  How could anyone before this time know about astrological ages or precession of the equinoxes?

Though academia rejects ancient knowledge of precession of the equinoxes and the astrological ages before Hipparchus – mountains of circumstantial evidence suggests the contrary.  Most astrologers know that astrology is too subtle and sophisticated for academics to comprehend (they need an apple to fall on their head), so we will put aside their collective limitation and move back to very ancient times and see if ancient astronomers may have made advances in their understanding or knowledge of the astrological ages.  Surprisingly, the period 2277 to 2125 BC hits the nail right on the head.  A major restructuring of the zodiacal constellations occurred in the late third millennium BCE because over the thousands of years since the Mesopotamians had been observing the heavens, the constellations had shifted position due to precession of the equinoxes.[1]  It is believed this restructure of the constellations occurred in what is known as the Akkadian period (2390–2210 BC).  If the astronomers from this ancient time could perceive that the stars had shifted, did it occur to them that the stars would keep shifting into the future?  Did they relate astrological ages to these shifting stars? 

Though we cannot be certain of the knowledge-base of ancient astronomers, we can historically perceive the developments in ancient astronomy.  For thousands of years a cosmic religion had existed where the heavenly bodies were deified.  Sometime, not long before 2000 BCE in Mesopotamia, the astronomers commenced applying astrological concepts to the heavenly bodies.[2]  This very major development in astrology appears around our target period of 2277 to 2125 BC.  Another key development is that the stars and constellation, as defined in those ancient times, became ‘frozen’ until Hipparchus appeared around one age later.  As early as 1915 researchers noticed that the ancient Greeks inherited the Babylonian constellations, but the constellations they used were defined around 2084 BC (in the final florescence of the old Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia).[3]  Other researchers agree with this approach. 

Basically what we have is three highpoints associated with astrology (and astronomy) in general, including the astrological ages to a certain extent – all associated with a Scorpio sub-age.  Between these highpoints are large periods of time of erratic or reduced activity or understanding but with some highpoints, particularly when any period is associated with Aquarius.  For most of the 1st and 2nd millenniums BC, a lot of important astronomical/astrological knowledge or understanding appears to have been lost in the turbulence of those times, and people much information could only be hand down and possibly only partially understood.

There is a delusionary expectation that as the years unfold, everything improves.  This is not the case.  Shakespeare is still called the greatest poet the world has seen.  Michelangelo’s artwork is revered today.  Any original Impressionist painting is worth a fortune.  Picasso is undoubtedly the greatest surrealist or abstract painter the world has known.  Most of the best classical composers lived a number of centuries ago.  People will be listening to the music of the 1960s and 70s in awe for centuries.  The best novelists the world will appear around 2029 (minus 15 years or plus 60 years), and not to be overtaken for around another 700 years.

The reason for these spikes in accomplishment is that they all relate to peaks in ages and sub-ages.  For example, the power of Pisces at the time of Shakespeare will not be replicated for almost another 26,000 years.  The music of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and so on is associated with the Pisces-Aquarius age (1433- 3574) with a highpoint for Scorpio in 1970.  As Richard Tarnas points out in his music and astrology workshops, the music of the 1960s and 70s was the combination of the Uranian (Aquarian) electric medium combined with the sexual rock-and-roll beat of Pluto (Scorpio).

Therefore it can be expected that the current highpoint for astrology in general and specifically the astrological ages will not be constant in the coming millennia. It is therefore appropriate that such a major discovery of the true nature of the astrological ages is made during the current period when the astrology of our time resonates with major advances in astrology.  Even ten years ago, near the beginning of my major research into the astrological ages, I was aware of the need to produce a book at a time that was a suitable highpoint for astrology.  The whole Scorpio subage and overflow (1791-1970-2148) is a highpoint for astrology, but there are specific Scorpio hotspots within this multi-century period.  One such hotspot is the current Scorpio micro-age decan and overflow (2005-10-15) with the bell curve highpoint located 2007-12 (basically aligned to the GFC).  Ten years ago I thought this hotspot was located around 2020 and so I thought I had plenty of time to write my book.  This illusion was shattered in 2006 when I eventually fine-tune my rectification of the start of the Aquarian age to 1433 – about 10 years earlier than my previous estimate.  This advanced the current Scorpio hotspot from around 2020 to 2010.  I immediately felt the pressure to produce the book of the astrological ages and I commenced writing it in 2007, with it being published in 2011.

For those readers interested in the astrological ages we live in a magic period.  In hindsight it is easy to see why Hipparchus in the 2nd century BC got his calibration technique for measuring the astrological ages wrong.  This is why for over the last 2,000 years the astrological ages have been a mere toy and plaything for some astrologers, as it gave the hint of correlation but was basically useless as a predictive tool.  One of the big questions I have is: did the astronomer-astrologers of around 2100 BC perceive and understand the astrological ages?  Circumstantial evidence cannot provide a definitive answer but there is a good possibility the answer is yes.  Every time you look at a zodiacal constellation in the sky, you are looking at the forensic evidence left by the ancient astronomer-astrologers over 4,000 years ago.  These zodiacal constellations, in their heliacal rising mode of calibration, are exactly aligned to the astrological ages as defined with the Age of Aquarius arriving in 1433 AD.  Is this an accident or were the zodiacal constellations purposely defined to measure the astrological ages? Now this is a real mystery!  Will we have to wait another age to find out?

For details about my book THE DAWNING see

[1] Babylonian Star-Lore, p. 256–9

[2] The Great Year, p. 21

[3] Mythology of the Babylonian People, p. 322