It’s not like 2020 hasn’t thrown enough at us without having to wonder whether your Sun sign (or star sign) has changed!
I woke this morning to a flurry of messages on the various social medias about this and my first thought was, ‘oh not this old chestnut again.’
Every insert-however-many-years-here, the idea that you have a new Sun Sign makes the rounds on the interwebs. It’s 2020, so I’m surprised to discover that various ‘news’ outlets don’t already have their inboxes flooded with other stories to cover. Yet, here we are.
In the age of mis-information, I write you this article to help you understand where the confusion lies, arm you with facts, assisting you in explaining to those people who have never studied astrology, or its history, yet obviously know more about the subject than those who’ve dedicated decades to it.
Before we begin, you’re also more than just your Star Sign. If you’re a Scorpio, that’s where the Sun was on the day/night of your birth. You’ve also got the Moon, Mercury, Venus et all that make up your chart. Even though I do write horoscope columns for generalised insight and entertainment, they are an over-simplification. That being said, the Sun’s location at birth can offer useful guidance, however, it barely scrapes the surface of what an in-depth astrological consultation can provide.
Once upon a time…
many Moons ago, ancient astronomers noticed that the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all wandered along the same trajectory in the sky. This is what we know today as the ecliptic. This is why you’ll never see the Sun, Moon or any other planet in a far-flung corner of the sky. The all travel within the ecliptic band, a width of approximately 16 degrees.
As these planets moved through the ecliptic, they did so with the constellations as their backdrop, thus being how the constellational zodiac came to be. This zodiac included the constellations the planets moved through, and omitted the ones they didn’t.
One of the quirks of the constellations is that they are very unequal in size. For instance, Cancer is a very small formation and Virgo is quite large. You can see this quite easily if you have a sky watching app on your phone. I use the free version of SkyView on my Samsung. My son and I love looking for what he calls, “the animals in the sky” on it. It’s super fun and always so illuminating to see the sky in action.
What you may notice when you do this, is that you’ll observe a planet that you know to be occupying a certain zodiac sign, but has a different constellation as its backdrop. For example, Mars is now in Aries, but occupies the constellation of Pisces. This can be confusing to the astro-curious and new students, while also arming sceptics with ammunition to tell you that astrology false.
As you can imagine, due to the size variance of these constellations, it posed a problem in the early days of the development of astrology as we know it today.
Progress on this was made by around 5BCE in Mesopotamia, where much of the astrology practiced in the West today was developing. Here is where the Sidereal zodiac was first constructed. Taking inspiration from the constellations, astrologers then standardised the zodiac into 12 divisions of 30 degrees each.
It was another few centuries later, around the 1st century BCE, astrology continued to be developed and refined. What came out of that period forms the basis of much of today’s astrological practice, including the Tropical Zodiac, that is, the association with signs and seasons.
The Tropical Zodiac – Yes, You’re Still A Scorpio!
Around 2000 years ago, the seasons and constellations were fairly aligned with each other. Thus, the entrance of the Sun in the cardinal signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn coincided with Spring, Summer, Autumn/Fall and Winter – the Solstices and Equinxoes. These Cardinal signs associated with initiating things just as their respective seasons do. For example, the ingress of the Sun in Aries aligns with the qualities of the first signs of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
The same can be said for the fixed signs of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius that highlight the middle of the seasons. Thus, Taurus aligns with the middle of the Spring season, where the qualities of Spring are established and stable.
The mutable signs of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces align with the time when the seasons are showing sides of changing. Gemini reflects the period of time in Spring where the season oscillates between the seasons of Spring and Summer. Then, Cancer (the next Cardinal sign) will initiate the first noticeable qualities of Summer, Leo in its fixed nature represents the height of Summer and Virgo’s mutable qualities are still Summer, with the first signs of Autumn/Fall becoming noticeable. The pattern continues with Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius et all.
It may be useful to keep in mind that these ideas were conceptualised in a very different time in history. In other words, I doubt that climate change was debated among the scholars of Alexandria. In our modern world and in particular places on the globe, weather patterns aren’t as predictable as they once were, and human impact would have been next to nil in comparison to now.
What was brilliant about this concept, is that it brought practical or more Earth based perspective to the signs, rather than relying on myth to extrapolate the characteristics of each of the 12 signs.
By now, you might be scratching your head because I’ve now briefly explained three different zodiacs. The constellational, the sidereal and the tropical.
The 1st century BCE, where Western Astrology (which is a massive misnomer by the way because it originated nowhere near the West) was invented/developed the Tropical Zodiac was fairly aligned with the Constellational Zodiac.
However, astronomers and astrologers began to become aware of ‘the precession of the equinoxes.’ This came about as each year the flooding of the Nile aligned with the heliacal rising of the Fixed Star Sirius. Over time, it was noted that this happened later and later.
These precessions are due to the Earth’s wobble, shifting approximately 1 degree every 72 years. From an astrological standpoint, this will make next to no difference in an average lifespan, but over hundreds of years, the gradual drift between the zodiacs became apparent.
It was during the 2nd century CE astrologers had to decide which zodiac they were going to use, as the gap between zodiacs widened. The majority of western astrologers opted for the tropical zodiac and the seasons as their reference point. Claudius Ptolemy made the first degree of Aries and the vernal point/ Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.
The ‘mistake’ made is that ancient astrologers continued to use the same names for the tropical signs there were already used for the constellations. This, in my opinion is the basis of where much of the confusion of the 13th signs palaver derives from. Unless you’re aware of the differences in the zodiacs, it’s natural to assume that the constellation of Sagittarius, for example, is the same as your star sign, but it’s not. When a 13th constellation is ‘discovered’ then, naturally, one could assume there is another sign to add to the zodiac. The fact of the matter is, there are many more constellations than just thirteen.
As most Western astrologers opted for team Tropical, Indian astrologers sided with the sidereal. As the centuries moved on, we now have an approximate 23-degree gap between the two zodiacs. If you’re curious about what your sidereal chart might look like, any planet that is more than 23 degrees would remain in the same sign and anything less would go backwards into the previous sign. For example, if you have your Sun at 10 degrees of Taurus, it would be approximately 17 Aries in the sidereal zodiac.
Since the tropical zodiac, which is what the vast majority of astrologers use in the west, including your favourite horoscope columns, is based on the seasons and the Sun / Earth relationship and not the constellations. Therefore, precession of the equinoxes has no effect on it. The signs of the zodiac we are all familiar with are inspired by, or take a part of their symbolism from the constellations, but they are not the same thing.
If you’d like to explore more ancient astrology and deepen your understanding of the signs and planets, then join me for a live webinar on the 22/23rd about the Egyptian Terms. Find out more and register