Thousands of people woke up to the realization this week that they aren't who they thought they were. Worse still, neither was that partner they always thought they were so compatible with based on their astrological signs, because this week it was announced that many of us were reading the wrong horoscope.
"Over the 2,500 years or so since the zodiac was established, your sign has moved about a month relative to the sun and stars," wrote Robert Roy Britt in a posting on LiveScience that was republished by a newspaper in Minnesota, triggering the zodiac panic.
"You're no longer what you think you are, and so if you're an astrology buff, perhaps poised to make a New Year's resolution based on the stars and a reading of your supposed personality, know that you're actually following observations, predictions and advice aimed at another person entirely."
The shift in the alignment of the stars, which has come about because the Earth has been wobbling on its axis for millennia, means most people go back a sign.
Warm hearted, patient Taurus becomes selfish, quick tempered Aries. Eminently practical and prudent Capricorns are now blindly optimistic and careless Sagittarians. And many Sagittarians are now Ophiucus. Oh what? Ophiucus.
It's the hitherto little heard of 13th astrological sign.
Apparently, the Babylonians had an Ophiucus column in their daily horoscopes but it got dropped somewhere between their civilization and ours. In any case, news of the celestial shift and of Ophiucus's resurrection sent astrology buffs reeling.
If they weren't wondering how to get rid of the Scorpio tattoo that they just had done when it turns out they're really Libra, as Michele Zipp did in a blog posting on The Stir, they were pondering some of the other existential questions raised by the change.
What, for instance, are Ophiucus's personality traits? What signs are compatible with Ophiucans? And do the lyrics to the song from "Hair" that go, "This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius" have to be rewritten? It would become "the dawning of the age of Capricorn", which doesn't really work with the meter of the song.
Knowing that famous Ophiucans include the late Sir Winston Churchill, rocker and reality show star Ozzy Osbourne, the late US comedian Richard Pryor and pop star Britney Spears, all of whom were born between November 29 and December 17, sheds little light on what the sign's personality traits are.
In fact, wrote John Abbott in Kernel Press about Ophiucus, "To claim that people as disparate as Ozzy Osbourne, Winston Churchill and Richard Pryor have a similar set of characteristics is nonsense."
The news of the heavenly shift is in fact old; Britt's story links to another published on LiveScience in 2007, in which the shift in the heavens and Ophiucus were announced, and Abbott wrote his piece in 1996, which is why he didn't mention Britney Spears -- she released her debut album in 1999.
Britts and Abbott, both, point out that astrology is not a science, a hint that no one was supposed to take the redrawing of the zodiac map too seriously. But for some reason, the whole thing went viral after the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis picked up the story and got an astronomer -- a real scientist -- to comment on it.
The astronomer was swamped with phone calls, and the Star Tribune's website got more than 183,000 hits on Thursday.
"If we had checked our horoscope, maybe we would have seen this coming," chuckled the Star Tribune's Bill Ward in his column on Friday.
According to a survey conducted in 2009 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a quarter of Americans believe in astrology. That's 75 million people who could now be worried about life, universe and everything else in between.