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Attesting to the uncomfortable marriage of belief and truth, there exists in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories a township known to the Palestinians as Place of Meat, and to the Israelis as Place of Bread. These are mere facts, but to Christians, who know it as Bethlehem, it remains a landmark in the timeless human search for meaning, associated not only with a birth, but a sign.

This year there are signs in various parts of the world, in the days leading up to the annual commemoration of the Adoration of the Magi, known to Christians as the feast of the Epiphany, of a possible new birth. God knows we need one!

The first sign, at sunset in Bethlehem on January 4, is the simultaneous transit of the First Point of Aries and the First Quarter Moon. In fact, the Moon transits 2 seconds before the equinoxial point, and 7 minutes before official sunset, but it is signs we seek, not facts. Some sort of new beginning might be approaching. [All times at the foot of the following charts are Australian Eastern Daylight Time, UTC +11.]

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The second sign, proving just how elusive signs can be, is manifest at Regulus Gate from my observatory on Epiphany morning.

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Regulus, the star of the Lion’s heart, has a complex meaning in Southern Hemisphere Astrology. Not only does ‘Regulus‘ mean ‘little king’ (not ‘prince’), an infamous basilisk who can kill with just a glance, but Leo upside-down looks more like a possum than a lion, and as anyone who has been pissed on by a possum can attest, he is a malicious creature. Nonetheless, Regulus is one of the Royal Stars of Persia, the four guardians of the sky (along with Aldebaran, Antares and Fomalhaut), associated with the healing angel Raphael, and so the worst I can think of him is that he can seem sarcastic, when really his mordant wit is simply helping you to recover from yourself. It is important to know these resonances to understand Regulus Gate, because its other end is Alnair (at top of chart), the brightest star of Grus, the Crane, which carries Asian cultural connotations of celebration.

Now, Epiphany is astrology’s big moment, so flipping the globe to my meridian on the other side to see what the celebration end looks like in Brazil, I find the second sign.

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Wow, the Ecliptic is so close to the zenith (the zigzag in the meridian line), and Venus is almost there and opposite Regulus, which is right on the opposite horizontal pole!  This seems special in some way I can’t quite put my finger on, because Venus and Regulus have been a ‘thing’ for thousands of years. How does Venus in Aquarius through Alnair Gate relate to what I’m seeing in Breamlea? Is she prancing on Regulus’ sarcasm? Is celebration so unwarranted that she must negate her underworld man with an upskirt?

The third sign, computed by a Solomonese Indian astrologer, is the entry of the Moon into Ashvini, the first Nakshatra (opposite Spica) at the precise moment of transit, at sunset on Malaita, one of the Solomon Islands. (Official sunset is a mere 7 seconds later.)

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Indulgent Jupiter constrained by shrewd Spica: a gravitational reminder of what the politeness of a refined wife may mask? No? Well, perhaps all these cyclical rebirths are all we get. But wait! Poring over my arcane tables in retreat from the late heat of the summer sun, I realize that Fomalhaut, the angel Gabriel, is culminating, signalling affirmation perhaps of the sacred meaning I am looking for. It was no doubt the same fervour that seizes me now which gripped the astrologers of Herod’s day! I must follow that star!

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It takes about 9 hours for the Earth to rotate its longitudes so that Fomalhaut transits at Bethlehem, so I have plenty of time to get there and consult my tables, but I am thrown into consternation by complete unfamiliarity when I get there. It is cold, not at all like the nativity plays where I come from, where the wise men all wear shorts. I can’t even find the sun at first, until I realize it is behind me, much lower than I left it, and setting to my right, clockwise. The chart above, my home, is where I am used to the constellations following an anti-clockwise procession, but no matter, I am already acclimatizing.

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But what’s this? What are those ridiculous signs? What in Heaven’s name is Gabriel affirming? Must I become the newborn and start learning to read the world all over again? My wisdom deserts me! Whoever heard of a confident crab, or an aggressive set of scales? Never could I associate a possum with perfectionism! No wonder there is such implacable hostility between sidereal and tropical astrologers up here! No wonder ‘wise men’ no longer look at the sky here: it’s all wrong!

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And so, as the sun sets into the cosmic ocean, I finally have my epiphany. Life is not a river flowing down to the sea, but a journey in the opposite direction, through ever more sharply defined contours, dwindling resources and thinning populations, until finally, the water dries up completely.