No, your zodiac sign hasn't changed
January 13th, 2011
10:11 PM ET

No, your zodiac sign hasn't changed

Tattoo parlor owners must be salivating. An assertion in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article that our understanding of the zodiac is off by about a month - and that therefore people have been identifying themselves with the wrong sign - caught fire on the internet Thursday, and many folks are in an absolute panic on social media.

"If my zodiac symbol has been changed to a Libra, what am I supposed to do with my Scorpio tattoo?!?!," read one tweet Thursday.

Some vowed to get their tats removed. Others groaned about losing the sign with which they’ve identified themselves for years. The zodiac and related terms - including Ophiuchus, said to be a 13th and neglected sign - were trending Twitter topics much of Thursday.

But before astrology fans scrape the ink from their arms because they think they're now a Virgo instead of a Libra, they should consider this: If they adhered to the tropical zodiac - which, if they're a Westerner, they probably did - absolutely nothing has changed for them.

That's worth rephrasing: If you considered yourself a Cancer under the tropical zodiac last week, you're still a Cancer under the same zodiac this week.

That's because the tropical zodiac - which is fixed to seasons, and which Western astrology adheres to - differs from the sidereal zodiac - which is fixed to constellations and is followed more in the East, and is the type of zodiac to which the Star Tribune article ultimately refers.

Two zodiacs. That's nothing new.

"This story is born periodically as if someone has discovered some truth. It's not news," said Jeff Jawer, astrologer with Tarot.com.

The hubbub started with Sunday's Star Tribune article, which said the following: "The ancient Babylonians based zodiac signs on the constellation the sun was 'in' on the day a person was born. During the ensuing millenniums, the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth 'wobble' around its axis, creating about a one-month bump in the stars' alignment."

"When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces," Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, told the Star Tribune.

"Indeed," the article continued, "most horoscope readers who consider themselves Pisces are actually Aquarians." The article also asserts Scorpio's window lasts only seven days, and that a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus, used to be counted between Scorpio and Sagittarius but was discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year.

True enough, Jawer says, the sun doesn't align with constellations at the same time of year that it did millennia ago. But that’s irrelevant for the tropical zodiac, codified for Western astrology by Ptolemy in the second century, he says.

In the tropical zodiac, the start of Aries is fixed to one equinox, and Libra the other.

"When we look at the astrology used in the Western world, the seasonally based astrology has not changed, was never oriented to the constellations, and stands as … has been stated for two millenniums," Jawer said.

People who put stock in astrology can ask whether they should adhere to the tropical zodiac or the sidereal zodiac. Jawer argues for the tropical.

"Astrology is geocentric. It relates life on Earth to the Earth’s environment, and seasons are the most dramatic effect, which is why we use the tropical zodiac," he said.

Post by:
Filed under: Space
soundoff (1,486 Responses)
  1. Jackie

    @Dave & @ aid Both of your comments broke my brain.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. ***dude***

    Horoscopes are a bunch of crap. They make no technical sense. Your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual existence do not interconnect with such feeble alignments. Fallacy of false cause. middle age, earth is flat, misconceptions

    January 14, 2011 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Fah Q Hardly

    Blah blah blah horoscope this, zodiac that. People, let me break it to you. Every person has beliefs, whether its the "belief that there are NO beliefs" or something rediculous as that. Everything doesn't have to be so "structured" why can't you think of a bigger picture like, instead of, "I was born on this day, at this time, so im this or that" yeah yeah yeah.. that has been pushed on people throughout human exsistance. Why don't you just make up your mind on your own? or say something along the lines of... I WAS BORN. You really think it matters? not one bit. You were born, you are alive, then you die. That is it. And it happened at some point.. not in time.. IT JUST HAPPENED. Yeah you age but the only reason for that is so you can die and decompose so this planet can keep growing and making little carbon copies of itself to do THE EXACT SAME THING only repeated. Humans are just making it harder for natures cycles to continue because everyone is so caught up in LIVING A LONG LIFE, well im sorry but in the REAL world without all of these fancy computers and wheeled instruments there is life, that isnt lazy, that isnt in a hurry to live and die, they just live. That is it. You need to understand that all life is fertilizer for the next life to benefit from. THAT IS IT. No gods no zodiac mumbo jumbo life is exactly what it is.. life. Nothing more. Its up to you to decide how you want to live the life that is given to you. Im only 24 years old, I may sound like a nut job, but seriously, you people think too much. Just live.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Stl

    Ok. zodiac sing's have been out fore a long time an now this one comes out of left feld an now we are told that what you are an have been your hole life is not true. An why are we just know finding this out where was it at When we all was given are sings an was told what we where at the time of berth are we all just going to say well it is ok we can Make a Cange an your right we will but for the one's that will say I don't care what someone tell's me I am what I am. I say this to you. You are right an good for you

    January 14, 2011 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. tgi.gavin

    My question is does my sign change? I only ask because when I was born it was June 7 making me a gemini that that was over 21 years ago wouldn't my sign still be a gemini since that's where the stars were when I was born can some one explain to me why my sign wouldn't stay gemini and any one born from this point on would be a Taurus

    January 14, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Erik

    My sign is neon.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. chantal c.o.

    I don't believe that peoples zodiac changed, I think this is only for those who are born this year. Therefore no bodies zodiac changed unless you were born this year. Not that babies give a damn anyways 😛 so stop your crying over it! Also... for those who said "change is good" well that's because your zodiac sign most likely sucks! 🙂

    January 14, 2011 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. The Chosen One

    PLEASE REPENT PEOPLE

    There is only ONE way towards salvation, and that is through DOG. That's right, only Dog can save you. He is after all, man's BEST friend. And we all know what Dog spelled backwards is. I'm just saying,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
    • UHU

      Amen to that Brother

      DOG is GREAT!

      January 14, 2011 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      hahahahahahah!!!

      January 14, 2011 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. jill

    BOOOOO Cnn beat me to it. Oh well 🙂

    http://viralbuster.blogspot.com/2011/01/ok-this-whole-zodiac-signs-changing-omg.html

    January 14, 2011 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. John

    numerology LADY is going to hell.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Aunt Linda

    Sadly, The article has obviously caused only more confusion for those of us who are not well acquainted with complex astronomy. I'll try to break it down into it's essential principles for those who have the patience:

    Firstly, What exactly is the Zodiac?

    1. The Zodiac modern astrologers use was first invented 2500 years ago by the Ancient Babylonians (a civilization based in the territory which is present-day Iraq.)
    2. It is based upon the precise path of the sun through the background of stars, which is called the "Ecliptic" by astronomers. (We would be able to see the sun among the stars in the daytime were it not for the presence of Earth's thick nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere which turns the sky a bright blue color).
    3 The moon, and planets share approximately the same orbital plane as the earth, so they too trace paths through a zone of the sky that is very near the ecliptic.
    4. The Babylonian astronomers divided the Ecliptic into 12 equal chunks of celestial real-estate, which correspond to the 12 constellations (recognized by babylonian astronomers) and the area of the sky immediately adjacent to them , these are the 12 signs of the Zodiac used by most modern astrologers.

    OK, so what is all this business about "Precession"

    4. The gravitational influences of the sun, moon (and to a much lesser extent the other planets) upon the Earth cause the direction (not the tilt, mind you) of its axis relative to the stars to slowly wobble. Over a 25,771.5 year cycle the earth's axis completes on full wobble. This is what is known as "The Precession of the equinoxes". Therefore, the actual position of the sun in the Ecliptic at any given time of year completes one full cycle every 25,771.5 years. For example, is the sun is in Saggitarius today, Then on this date in 25,771.5 years it will be again be in Saggitarius. Simple Arithmetic tells us that every 1/12th of that cycle the Sun changes signs, so it takes about 2,150 years for this to happen.

    So how does all of this affect my sign?
    5. OK. So it's been about 2500 years since the Babylonian Zodiac was created. Unfortunately the Babylonians were unaware of the phenomenon of Precession, However 350 years later it was discovered by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, A couple hundred years after that the Roman Astronomer/Astrologer Ptolemy, added Ophiuchus to the list.(say: oh-FI-yuck-us) a 13th Zodiacal constellation between Saggitarius and Scorpio. This is one of the 88 constellations used by modern astronomers to map out the sky, but it has not been used by the majority of astrologers, both in Ptolemy's time as well as today. Ptolemy was also aware of Precession, but chose to ignore it for astrological purposes.

    6. Most contemporary Astrologers use one of two Zodiacs with 12 signs: Tropical and Sidereal.

    7.The "Tropical" Zodiac is fixed to the months of the calendar, using the Vernal Equinox (March 21-22) as the starting point. Thereby reflecting the position of the sun as it would have been on any given date in Babylonian times rather than any up-to-date astronomical reality. This Zodiac follows a coordinate system dividing the 360-degree Zodiac into 12 30-degree sections. This is the system used by the majority of Western Astrologers

    8The "Sidereal" Zodiac, on the other hand is based upon the actual position of the Sun in the sky in real time. This Zodiac is used by Hindu Astrologers and some Western Astrologers.
    it is also (usually) divided into 12 30-degree regions.

    9. Complicating this further, a small minority of modern Astrologers using the Sidereal system have abandoned the 12 sign system in favor of the 13 constellations listed by Ptolemy and decided to use the constellation boundaries as defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) (the scientific body which regulates modern astronomy). As the IAU constellation boundaries are determined by the actual width of the constellations, rather than broken up into 12 equal sized segments. Rather than consistently being a month long, the periods of time allocated for each sign under this regime vary from as short 5 days(Scorpius) to as long as 45 days (Virgo).

    So has my sign Changed?
    10. That's entirely up to you. If you prefer to stick with prevailing astrological tradition (perhaps habit would be a better term) regardless of astronomical reality, then no, it hasn't. However if you prefer to use a system of astrology based upon actual celestial occurrences,(i.e. if you're a Libra and you're chart says Mars is in your sign you can Look up in the sky and see it shining bright in Libra) then perhaps you should consider going with the new calendar.

    11. Additional Tidbits:
    Both the Babylonians and the Romans were only aware of 5 of the 7 planets visible from Earth: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. after the telescope was invented around the turn of the 17th century 2 very large planets were discovered: Uranus in 1781 and Neptune in 1846. (Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was considered a planet for 76 years but got demoted by the IAU to "dwarf planet" status in 2006. The decision was fairly controversial but we won't get into that here.) Most astrologers use the 5 classical planets exclusively in their predictions but some have also taken Uranus and Neptune into account.

    My Two Cents:
    The Babylonians designed a system of astrology that was as accurate as possible for their day. Wouldn't It make sense for modern astrologers to do the same?

    January 14, 2011 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dannon

    .... de de deeee... dumb is contagious.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. perry

    Ancient astrologers, druids, based all their zodiac calculations and predictions into the future on a flat earth.....right on.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    If people actually take the time to read Others characteristics of their signs compared to their own, you can "relate" to about half of them one way or another. Sane thing with horoscopes. You can read just about anyones and you will be able to apply it to your life in some way. No one ever thinks about that kind of thing, but that's what makes you go "wow they nailed where I'm at in life" when really, they will all do that. Every once in a while, your own doesn't apply to you at all, but I bet most the others will... Just food for thought...

    January 14, 2011 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. GiveYouTheTruth

    zodiac's dont determine anything people, except something to look for that relates to a quote you read smh -__-. Everyone's zodiac sign is 'human' as far as I know. . . so everyone thats born in a certain timeframe has the same destiny or something? lame lol. Birth time and date is not sufficient enough to tell someone's destiny or qualities they possess. so funny lol.

    January 14, 2011 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46