Urban Legends

Urban Legends are Mercury at its best. My favorite definition of the term Urban Legend comes from David Emery who defined it as. “An apocryphal, secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.”

In true mercurial fashion, Urban Legends that are handed down as oral history are at best tricky since they tend to be embellished and refashioned according to region and culture as they are repeated. The Internet is chock full of these stories that range from humorous to horrific. We are all familiar with the stories of the alligators in the New York sewers, the Hook Man who terrorized young lovers trysting in parked cars, Bloody Mary and even the hilarious tale of the killer biscuit dough or the poor lady in the 1960’s who ended up with wasps nesting in her beehive hairdo.

Are there any astrological Urban Legends? You bet. One legend concerns Ophiuchus as the thirteenth sign of the zodiac which every so many years pops up as a threat to everyone via certain writers who claim it will reshape the Zodiac and thus possibly change your birth sign.

So what is the scoop on all of this?

It is a real constellation that lies between the constellation of Scorpio the Scorpion and Sagittarius the Archer. It is an Ancient Greek constellation that can be historically dated back to the time of Claudius Ptolemy, the Father of Astrology. By way of explanation in order to clarify doubt about a “13th sign”, most astrologers use what is known as the Tropical Zodiac which consists of twelve 30 degree signs that originate with the Vernal Equinox. These twelve “signs” have the same name as the constellations but that’s where the similarity ends. The 4th century B.C. Babylonians invented the 360°circle and the twelve 30°signs of the Zodiac which were properly called the Fixed Zodiac. The Babylonians also invented planetary and solar and lunar tables in order to be able to calculate “positions.” In the 2nd century A.D. Ptolemy adopted the Tropical Zodiac (originally invented by Hipparchus in the 2nd century B.C.) to calculate his solar, lunar planetary and star tables. Around 300 A.D. astrologers began using the Tropical Zodiac and continue to use it to this day. This is why the astrological Tropical Zodiac has only twelve signs and does not include Ophiuchus as an actual Zodiac sign.

Another legend concerns author of the classic Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell. In 1978, an Atlanta, Georgia astrologer was shown Xerox copies of Margaret Mitchell’s early notes and discovered the notes contained clues that led said astrologer to surmise that Miss Mitchell based her famous characters upon the signs of the Zodiac. For example, Scarlet with her fierce me first energy was the quintessential Aries; Rhett Butler a dapper Leo; Melanie the ever-caring a Cancer and Ashley Wilkes the gallant Capricorn. In some circles the story still circles as an astrological allegory.

Nostradamus, the famous French astrologer, seer and physician was attached to an Urban Legend concerning an alleged 911 prophecy:

"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures,
the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

David Kerr, a debunker, actually tracked those lines back to Neil Marshall, a student at Brock University in St. Catherine's, Ontario. He wrote the lines in 1997 as a high school student, for a website meant to demonstrate how the writings of this 16th-century mystic can be twisted. Despite this, the legend still persists in some circles.

There is an Urban Legend connected to Moscow’s underground Metro-2 system. These lines that run below the official metro are part of a structure commissioned by Stalin as a nuclear shelter. It is believed that the twelve points created by the radial lines correspond with the twelve Zodiac signs. A ghost train associated with this is said to transport passengers to ‘nowhere.’

The opal which is considered a birthstone for the signs of Libra and early Scorpio is considered very bad luck for anyone who wears it that is not born under those signs. This idea which most likely started out as a superstition has graduated to Urban Legend and is still causing fear for people today.

Egg balancing hails from China but has become popular in the United States. It is connected with the Lunar New Year in China and the Vernal Equinox in the United States. Some people swear it works and others … no luck.

The signs themselves have Urban Legends attached to them born from exaggerated misnomers regarding the traits associated to them and from long going superstitions. Scorpios probably get the worst bash as the UL insists they are Godzilla-like, over sexed, vengeance seekers. Sagittarius cannot seem to get out from under the UL that they are the drunks of the Zodiac and Pisces, nothing more than a ditsy doormat.

The Moon has many types of legends tied to it. In the 1950s, the Czech doctor Eugene Jonas stumbled across an ancient Assyrian astrological text stating that women are fertile during certain phases of the moon. He used the theory extensively in his practice and there are many people out there who believe it to work however, recent studies have turned up little statistical evidence for moon-induced baby production.

In India, a person born under the influence of Mars is called a manglik or having Mangal Dosha. People avoid marrying such a person, especially if the person is a woman. Marriage with such a person is believed to cause marital discord and divorce, even sometimes death. However, it is believed that if two mangliks marry, the effects of both cancel out.

The Age of Aquarius (of which astrologers cannot agree on exactly when it either started or starts) has become an urban legend ever since the theatrical production of Hair which seemed to imply its range was in the 60s and 70s via the lyrics of the song by the same name. Some astrologers believe we are currently in this phase and others think it is yet to come.

The art and science of astrology itself has been called an Urban Legend or superstition. Perhaps that is because Mercury is making a fool of those who don’t really understand it and write nonsensical articles based on the solar brand that appears to be a one size fits all prophecy generally found in magazines and newspapers. It is comical when these writers rage on about how it is all non-scientific bunk … but that too is Mercury having a run and some fun!