Hey Baby, Whatâ€™s Your Sign?
Or don’t you know anymore? There’s been a lot of talk, this month, about the changes made to the circle of zodiac signs, the addition of a new sign, and displacement of birthdays into different astrological zones.
I’ve been following astrology for about half my life now, learning a bit here and there from my best friend’s grandmother, books, and of course, the internet. I might even go so far as to call myself an amateur astrologer. “I’m Scorpio,” I may answer with confidence.
“Yes, but what are you really?” asks one of my friends.
“Oh it’s still the same for her,” another puts in, “It only affects people born after this year, or something.”
Hold up. This “holy shift!” moment we’re having is nothing new. It is true that when an astrologer tells you the sun is currently “in Aquarius,” it’s actually visibly couched in the constellation of Capricorn. The zodiac signs have slipped from their constellations by a great deal, and have slowly been doing so for thousands of years.
Astrology is based on an optical illusion, which is why we’re able to say the sun is “in” any sector of the sky, when we know it doesn’t actually move around the earth any more than the planets or constellations do. The movement of planets and stars from our vantage point is regular and predictable, as is the precession of the equinoxes, which is the phenomenon that accounts for the shifting of the signs relative to their named constellations (think of it as Earth wobbling on its axis; this is also the reason we have a new “North Star” every couple thousand years).
But it’s all just a matter of names. Think of it this way: the planets are all “named after” gods and goddesses (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, etc.), but to the very ancients (Babylonians), the planets were the gods. The seat of the gods was the sky (heaven), and the movement of those gods was of great importance in divining their will and ire. Hence, the birth of astrology.
In Western astrology, by similar fashion, the twelve evenly divided sectors of the sky are named after constellations which were once correspondent to them as physically viewed from the Earth. But the signs are actually divided according to season. Sidereal astrology is a whole different branch which uses the actual constellations, but that’s not the type you’ve been reading in your newspapers since you were twelve.
The twelve signs of the zodiac are based on the solar calendar. The first of them, Aries, begins on the vernal equinox (first day of spring), around the 21st of March. Summer solstice kicks off with the sign of the crab, while autumnal equinox begins the weighing scales, and the winter solstice is the first day of the sign of the sea-goat. This is, naturally, why the signs do not have fixed start and end dates, and if your birthday falls close to the cusp, you have to check a chart to find your “true sign.”
The twelve sectors of the sky appear to be traversed by the various planets, plus the sun and moon. We have retrograde motion when a planet appears to be moving backwards through the signs, instead of progressing in a forward fashion like the good old sun and moon do.
The sun is a major player in astrology, but many other elements come into play. The planets function as symbolic characters, with the sun representing your ego, and the moon your emotional side. If someone asks about your sign, what they’re really saying is, in what invisibly demarcated sector of the sky was the sun at the time you were born? An astrologer, though, will pay just as much attention to your moon sign and rising sign (what sign was on the horizon at the moment you were born).
Elements and Modes
There are four “elements” in astrology (fire, earth, air, and water) and three “modes” (cardinal, fixed, and mutable). The personalities of the signs are derived in no small part from the combinations (3 x 4 being 12) of these elements. Generally, fire is passionate and physical, earth steady and pragmatic, air intellectual and hard to pin down, and water emotional and nurturing. Cardinal means good leadership, while fixed means obdurate (or determined), and mutable is flexible, literally ‘changeable.’ Each sign has a planetary ruler, and each planet has a sort of personality (which corresponds more or less to the god after which it is named).
Daily astrology predictions and columns use the movements of the heavenly bodies to make connections based on the angles struck by planets wandering around the circle. The overall concept is that the planets and their aspects do not cause anything to occur, rather they are said to reflect the way things are going at that time. Similarly, astrologers hold that being born at a certain time doesnâ€™t make you have a certain personality, but rather it seeks to describe it.
If you’d like to find out more, the web has a lot of great resources. Astrodienst (http://www.astro.com/) will cast your full chart for free (it’s the interpreting of it that costs you the money), so you can see exactly what your natal chart looks like. This site also has a lot of interesting articles explaining further aspects of astrology, and the basics in much greater detail.
Jonathan Cainer (http://www.cainer.com) is an astrologer in the UK, whose website I’ve been visiting for 13 years. He manages to be very encouraging without feeling patronizing, and I have always enjoyed his work.
A newer addition to my list of sites is SoulGarden (http://www.soulgarden.tv) where Christopher Witecki delivers the daily predictions like a weather report.
All of them will tell you the same thing: that if you were a Virgo last month, youâ€™re still a Virgo. If your sister has a baby tomorrow, that baby is an Aquarius. There are, in tropical astrology, 12 signs, and theyâ€™re just like you remember. Be reassured; it may be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but that doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s the end of the world as we know it. Weâ€™ll have to wait til 2012 for that business.
|Sign||Symbol||Element||Mode||Ruling Planet||Approximate Dates||Special Date|
|Aries||Ram||Fire||Cardinal||Mars||Mar 21 â€“ Apr 19||Vernal Equinox|
|Taurus||Bull||Earth||Fixed||Venus||Apr 20 â€“ May 20|
|Gemini||Twins||Air||Mutable||Mercury||May 21 â€“ Jun 20|
|Cancer||Crab||Water||Cardinal||Moon||Jun 21 â€“ Jul 22||Summer Solstice|
|Leo||Lion||Fire||Fixed||Sun||Jul 23 â€“ Aug 22|
|Virgo||Maiden||Earth||Mutable||Mercury||Aug 23 â€“ Sep 22|
|Libra||Scales||Air||Cardinal||Venus||Sep 23 â€“ Oct 22||Autumnal Equinox|
|Scorpio||Scorpion||Water||Fixed||Pluto (formerly Mars)||Oct 23 â€“ Nov 21|
|Sagittarius||The archer||Fire||Mutable||Jupiter||Nov 22 â€“ Dec 21|
|Capricorn||Sea goat||Earth||Cardinal||Saturn||Dec 22 â€“ Jan 19||Winter Solstice|
|Aquarius||Water bearer||Air||Fixed||Uranus (formerly Saturn)||Jan 20 â€“ Feb 18|
|Pisces||Fish||Water||Mutable||Neptune (formerly Jupiter)||Feb 19 â€“ Mar 20|