Years ago – in 2000, to be exact, I had a blog called Blue Lines. I was one of the first 100 or so people in the UK to have a blog, for what that’s worth (nothing, you might think, and in a just world you’d be right). Blue Lines was my ‘general’ blog, as opposed to NYLPM, and was quite well-regarded and popular for a while. A lot of its old material – buried in the Blogger archives – would be entirely appropriate for FT and might well be glommed onto it. But here’s a favourite post, presenting a lie that Pete and I came up with (I forget the circumstances). At least two people actually believed this and linked to it! (All Blue Lines posts were numbered, hence the “358”)

358. A History Lesson

In 1900 the Confédération Internationale D’Astrologie met in Lyons, as it had done at the beginning of every century, to fix the Zodiac for another 100 years. For many of the members, geographically unable to attend the yearly Lesser Councils, it was the first time they had met, and the long discussions were as pleasurable as they were heated, as revealing as they were secret. At issue was the constellation of Xerxes, the Outcast, admitted to the Zodiac in 1600 after strong lobbying by delegates from the Low Countries, who wanted a sign in the Zodiac that would reflect the new and stern certainties of a rapidly Reforming world. Xerxes had never been popular, especially as by the laws of chance several heirs and monarchs were born under it, to the embarrassment of their Royal Houses. In 1896 Belgium experienced a small frisson of scandal as a low-class evening daily speculated that the Queen’s birthdate had been changed by Decree to move her from Xerxes into the more acceptable Virgo.

Now Xerxes’ fate was surely sealed – these were less judgemental, more laissez-faire times, after all. But what was to replace it? Georges Chevalier and the French contingent lobbied for Orion, which Xerxes had after all replaced. It was an immediately recognisable constellation, and besides promoted a vigorous and expansive character, important in an Imperial Age. But Chevalier was outflanked by Massimo Agnelli, a retired diplomat of no little charisma, who had marched on Naples with Garibaldi and played more than a small part on smoothing out affairs during the first years of the united Italy. Agnelli, talking about the Great Powers, the precarious balance of peace in Europe, and the need to celebrate a more hopeful and tender age, pushed for Libra. His eloquence and radicalism moved the assembled, and Libra, the first non-anthropomorphic constellation to enter the Zodiac, replaced Xerxes. Chevalier never forgave Agnelli, pointedly refusing to attend the Italian’s funeral in 1904, and forever after filling his horoscopes for Libra with the most frightful calumnies.

As to this centuries’ deliberations, currently proceeding in a run-down Lyonnais hotel, it’s felt no change will take place. Drew Forrester, of Canada, has strongly urged that Virgo be removed from the twelve, arguing that virginity is an outmoded and chauvinist concept, but a powerful bloc of representatives from Catholic nations are likely to shout him down. Following the breaking-of-ranks during the last decade, resulting in the humiliating announcement of The Whale, the thirteenth Zodiac sign, voices of stability are likely to be the most influential. Your horoscopes in January will almost certainly be the same as they ever were. But spare a thought for Xerxes, cast out now in fact as well as name.

Blog 7   The Brown Wedge