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.

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soundoff (1,487 Responses)
  1. jesusWept

    astrology, numerology, christianity, alchemy – what do these all have in common

    They are all silly myths

    January 14, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • nordicmetalhead

      Sorry, but they're not myths, otherwise, their practice would have never occurred. Your argument would be better suited were you to say "they're based on myths" (a whole different debate) rather than being myths themselves. 1 billion actual people are perhaps mythical in proportion, but they're not a myth.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. lordpet

    either way astrology is BS

    January 14, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. K

    Eeeeverybody watch this:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlMiKrwCRQ0&w=640&h=390]

    Now watch it again.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. Abbie

    This changes EVERYTHING! Is Stephen Hawking aware of this?!?

    January 14, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. why am i reading these comments...

    let them eat cake.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
    • nordicmetalhead

      Don't lose your head over this!

      January 14, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. nordicmetalhead

    It's all Obama's fault. He mentioned Change and look what we have now: a change in our astrological alignment! Vote Tea Party and restore our astrological alignment now! So what if the Tea Party can't spell "astrological alignment", do it anyway for your sake and for Amer'kah!

    January 14, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Aunt Linda

      Poe's law?

      January 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • athiestheathen

      Plus, the seasons have changed like FOUR or maybe even FIVE or SIX times since he got into office. AND don't even get me started on how often the temperature changes. And NOW the level of the ocean keep changing...once or twice a day. humph. :)

      January 15, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. ecarlson

    Making generalizations about people based on their astrological sun sign, whether you use tropical or sidereal systems, is as unfounded, irrational, and offensive as judging them by their skin color. All forms of prejudice are wrong.

    January 14, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. JoZw420

    I posted almost the exact same comment about tattoo's on my page but only jokingly. I would never even consider to change my Scorpio tattoo, I have had it for so long and it has become a part of who I am! Nothing will ever change that!!

    January 14, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bill

    So, what's your sign, baby?

    January 14, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      "at this point does it matter....wink wink.....so how YOU DOIN' " :P

      January 14, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • templar1

      The cross.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      Slippery When Wet

      January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • The Patriot

      The Murika Flag, thats what everyone's sign should be!

      January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey Engel

      This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard coming out of an astrologer's mouth.

      Saying that your zodiac hasn't changed because some mystic decided to "codify" the zodiac as "geocentric" and not relating to constellations is like saying that if you're 25, you're still the same height you were when you were 9.

      What does he think the zodiac is BASED on?? It was based on what constellation the sun is in! That IS part of the definition of zodiac. That requirement doesn't just "change" because some guy named Ptolemy says "ooh, this is tricky, let's just make it always the same so we don't have to recognize that every 2000 years or so, it changes a full constellation."

      Stupid stupid stupid.

      Astronomy proves Astrology is stupid over and over again yet people still think it's valid.

      You know why? Because Astrology has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with perception, and people's perceptions are skewed and distorted. People like to hear what they want to hear, they want their beliefs and ideas confirmed, they don't want to learn something new or difficult or complex or be told they might be wrong, and Astrology gives that to them: a bias of confirmation skewed toward the individual, to make them happy.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • athiestheathen

      My sign is a Darwin fish 'mounting' the Jeezus fish. :)

      January 14, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      hahhahaha Bill! your comment made me laugh to the point where my secretary came into my office!

      January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • DEADINSIDE

      I was born under the sign of a bridge overpass!

      January 14, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • 559rell

      @Jeffrey Engel. That's life. That's religion. That's the mainstream and a whole lot of other 'perceptions' people use to simplify things. I agree, but it's nothing to get mad over. Science isn't for everyone. We don't need any exploding heads.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • K von M

      "yield to oncoming traffic"

      January 14, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      for those who are ignorant, do some research before speaking. Help the world rid the overwhelming stupidity of not thinking before you speak.

      Tropical Zodiac is based on the Earth's (and therefore our) relationship to the sun, not to the stars.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Vomit

      At this point, I am just trying to figure out how to get my tattoo changed back to the sign I had originally. I had it changed yesterday due to the news and now this? Don't they realize these are people's lives they are messing with???

      January 14, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • cath

      Do Not Enter

      January 14, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      Vedic astrology uses the sidereal zodiac. Those people are assedd out.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • CannonOwner

      Mr. Engel:

      Do me a favour: don't capitalize "astrology". Doing so connotes a sense of authority and propriety that astrology is not worthy of. Thank you.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • scroo yoo

      'Do Not Enter'

      January 14, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      The sun is still in that sign... just because its not viewed that way from earth because of the moon altering our orbit does not mean that the celestial bodies are in the wrong place.

      The universe does not revolve around earth.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • BobbyBrick

      Cold Beer On Tap

      January 14, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      @Matthew – The sun is not literally in the zodiac constellations. The sun is only one AU from earth while the constellations in the zodiac are thousands of light years away. The sun is said to be in a sign because it appears that way from where we are located. So while the universe does not revolve around the earth, how it's viewed from earth is actually the point.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. Cody

    Gah we americans just suck anymore, can't even get the zodiac right. I'm gonna try a new zodiac that doesn't suddenly and fundamentally change. Anyone in mood for chinese food? I think am a dragon or snake, can't remember...

    January 14, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      Cody, it hasn't changed. The Hindus have been using the sidereal method of calculating the division of the sky for millenia. Most Western astrologers use the tropical method. The Hindus calculate using the relationship between the Earth and certain constellations–the math is really something else–and the rest of us use the relationship between the Earth and the planets.

      Now, everyone's welcome to see it as horse-hockey, of course. I know my way around it, but I certainly don't make any business decisions by it. Astrology, like Tarot, is just one of many ways that humans have brought the story-telling capacity of their minds to bear on the questions and uncertainties of life.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      That is the most polite way I have ever seen someones mysticism relegated to the world of fiction. I'm impressed.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      HAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA. Best. comment. ever.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ThisJust In

      @ Emmaleah – Cool!, I like that way your mind works.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Raychel

      I'm the rabbit.... I could eat chinese every day!

      January 14, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • an9nymouse

      @Mark....Brilliant!! :)

      January 14, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. will III

    You guys are idiots....hilarious though.

    January 14, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • ScienceMom

      Yeah, it's all a bunch of B.S. anyway, what does it matter? Besides, if astrologers really wanted to be logical, they'd use the date of conception rather than the date of birth. Shouldn't be able to change a baby's sign just by scheduling a C-section... It's so ridiculous! lol

      January 14, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pete

    flickr.com/photos/astronomyblog/5321423221/in/photostream/

    January 14, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. sevresblue

    Phew! Now I can go about my normal (Piscean) day!

    January 14, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • sevenpifer

      Alright Aquarius

      February 3, 2013 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. 1-2--OMG

    The dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum

    January 14, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. O-O uhhhhh

    I hope most of you come to realize the onbly reason you share characteristics with your sign is because you have subconsciously programmed yourselves to be compatible with your sign so you pretty much conform yourself to have the mentality that is programmed into you kinda like a bunch of robots......that's all I have to say O-O byeee?

    January 14, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Leah

      well said! :)

      January 14, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Emmaleah

      You are so right. Lack of healthy skepticism and curiosity is just killing us these days. I love the historical, cultural, and literary significance of soothsaying techniques, but the blind grasping for meaning that goes on is painful to see.

      There's a fellow (Brezsny) who creates these "Free Will" Astrology predictions–very anti-establishment guy, super positive. His 'predictions' are useful because he challenges our assumptions about ourselves and our pessimism and fear. You don't have to give a thought to astrology to find things like "assess your anger level this month and see if you wouldn't be happier if your joy were just as large" useful.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Michele

      In all fairness, I never resembled my zodiac sign. I still don't believe in it, but my new sign describes me to a T. I live in the far east, as well, so this is one of the many systems that are used here. Blood type, as well.

      Again, I don't believe in it, but I never tried to fit into my "old" sign of libra, but I match virgo exactly.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      I actually read this article yesterday and went to go look up what my sign said about me, I'm a scorpio, I never really researched it i just knew my sign in case anyone asked i could reply scorpio, but i have to say after reading the describtiion it was pretty accurate. It hasnt changed my life or anything but maybe once in a blue moon i might read a horoscope.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Lion

      I If we were just programming our mind to act a certain way according to our zodiac sign, then why do we act the same as children when we have no clue what a zodiac sign is? I am supposed to be a leo and everything they say about leo's was true for me, even as a child.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Kristen

      I've never identified with my sign. In fact, most of the time, I'm quite the opposite. I'm such a rebel. ;)

      January 14, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • NQ

      Much like religion has.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Actually, the most likely reason that most people fit the description of their signs is because the description is very general. You might not realize that but it works very well. We are programmed to recognize patterns, so if we are told "this description is who you are", we will read it and subconsciously try to find the patterns that match.
      My entire life I've been told that I am a "true" Capricorn. And every time I read the description, I agreed. And then slowly over time it occurred to me: well, what is it exactly that matches so well? I am stubborn – so are the Leos, Tauruses, Cancerns, Virgoes and Scoprios. I am "responsible" – I could actually argue with that one. And so on. If you read the description of your sign, you will find the traits that describe you and traits that dont exactly match. And so will the traits of just about any sign.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Astrology is far more complex and has a much richer history than most people even realize. Most people think that the zodiac is the set of constellations. Wrong. The constellations were originally used as identifiers to help people remember where a particular part of the zodiac was. They (the constellations) are more of a mile marker than the road itself. Haven't you ever wondered why they don't look like what they are supposed to be? The zodiac is an imaginary band of sky that circles the earth that is divided into twelve thirty degree sections. Look it up some time. If it wasn't for astrology, navigation would never had been possible. Is it a fortune telling system? No. Is there substance to it? Yes. Read about it.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
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