August 24, 2006

Pluto still a high-flyer for astrologers

By Martin Roberts

TORONTO (Reuters) - Scientists may have demoted Pluto to
the rank of a "dwarf planet" on Thursday but astrologers
foretell no major changes in the way they read the heavens
because of the move.

Russell Grant, a British astrologer and best-selling
author, said Pluto's planetary demotion was not a surprise
after years of discussion and he would not change the charts he
uses for his clients or millions of visitors to his Web site.

"I personally am shaken not stirred," Grant said in a
telephone interview from Britain. "It's very interesting that
Pluto's been downgraded in a planetary sense because he could
never be downgraded in a mythological sense.

"I will continue to use Pluto because he gives me the
ability to look into people's charts and see where they're
coming from psychologically," he said.

Grant noted that astrologers had long used non-planets,
such as Earth's moon. He also charts several asteroids, which
are inside the solar system but much smaller than planets.

Astrology, the belief that the relative position of
celestial bodies can help in the understanding of human affairs
and earthly events, arose several millenniums ago. Although
hugely popular, it is quite separate from the modern scientific
study of astronomy.

"Astronomers have had several cases in the past where
they've made changes in the objects used by astrologers," said
Lee Lehman, academic dean of Kepler College in Seattle, the
only institute in the Western Hemisphere to award degrees in
astrological studies.

Lehman said it took several decades for astrologers to
reach a consensus on the relevance of Pluto after its discovery
in 1930.

One of the reasons astronomers unseated Pluto was that
technological advances made them aware it was actually smaller
than a body discovered in 2003 and nicknamed Xena, after the
warrior princess in the television show.

"There is now quite a bit of interest now in the
astrological community about Xena," Lehman said, without being
able to predict whether the body would have a significant
impact on astrology.

Grant said Xena had limited use as its position meant it
would currently only affect people whose sun signs were in
Pisces and Aries, just two of 12 constellations in the zodiac,
a celestial band observed by astrologers.