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. DC

    The Ptolemy referred to in the article is Claudius Ptolemy, from the 2nd century AD, and should have been named in this way in the article with a proper date. There were many Ptolemies in the Graeco-Roman world, including Ptolemy I Soter, a commander of Alexander the Great, and the founder of the Hellenistic kingdom in Egypt. CNN, you should be accurate even in fluffy articles.

    Also, JF, if one were to read Greek and Roman history for oneself, he/she would be able to tell whether a guy on the internet is correct in his recounting of the non-Christian history of Christ. You are not, by the way. There are no extant sources that say, "So, Christ was this guy who was causing some trouble, and Pontius Pilate had him executed." Additionally, neither the gospels nor Roman historical sources that mention Christ/Christians (Tacitus, Suetonius, etc.) are written contemporaneously with the life of Christ; they are all at least late 1st century AD. If you can cite the passages to which you are referring, I will happily look them up and read them (in the original Latin or Greek, even!).

    January 14, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Amy O

      Good to see another avid historian amidst all the rubbish I constantly see posted on these blogs. I was curious about the topic after hearing some colleagues discussing it yesterday and was quite amused after I did research into it and found how gullible some people really are.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jugger

    I think my Karma just ran over my Dogma.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Strawberry

      thank goddess i have no dogma for your karma to run over!

      January 14, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kelsey

    Thank God! I was afraid I was going to have to change my whole personality!

    January 14, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. tenaya

    i love astrology and i read on it alot. im an aries and yes im one of the ones that have the aries symbol tatted on me!! but reading about aries and knowing me as a person and who i am, i fit the aries description to a T!!!! so if im not an aries then im not a true whatever im suppose to be. I walk like an aries i talklike an aries i sound like an aries so if it looks like a duc and sounds like aduck isnt it a duck??? in my mind set im going to be an aries no matter what any one says or does if people cant get it right the 1s time around then they shouldnt have published it and got the public involved cuz this is going to start more drama then it needs to. its interesting facts to know and uselessinfo for the foler in your brain but really did we really need to know this and start 2nd guessing ourselves!!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. ME

    "The ancient Babylonians based zodiac signs on the constellation the sun was 'in' on the day a person was born" As far as I know we are only born from our Mothers once in life, so If they add a 14th sign you were born under Virgo you were still born under Virgo. The same way your birth date will never change once born on 12/11/1957 aways born on 12/11/1957. Dont you love how people put a spin on things to ensue up-evil?

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

      The point is that the Babylonians arbitrarily removed a 13th sign, just like all 13 signs were created arbitrarily from the random positioning of the stars making it appear as if there were gods or beings living in the stars.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. kb

    This would have been a great time to put all the zodiac BS to rest, but no, CNN just reassures all of the idiots you believe in this stuff already that they should still follow this garbage.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Fish5

    As we drift through space and time, and you live a normal life span, your astrological sign will shift into the next sign naturally. Most of you probably never had an in-depth chart reading. It's very interesting and insightful, but I don't live by it.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Joeybadabing

      An in-depth charting reading....are you kidding me, get real. I hope you did have to pay for it.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:05 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 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • baaa

      wow this news was out for not even a day and you decided to change your tattoo?

      some people need to learn to think.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      You need to learn to recognize sarcasm.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. Biff

    Astrology is 100% BS, of course...just like belief in any god you can name going back thousands of years. Ever wonder why you never see or hear (unless your crazy enough to believe a god is talking to you) gods, only man-made images of them? That's a real clue.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. LiveWire

    Can you PLEASE post a "[sic]" next to all instances of the word "millenniums". It's "millennia", regardless of what spell check says.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. The Ball Guy

    This is a news story that made it to the front page of CNN??!! This affects your life how???

    January 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. SillyWriter

    ITT Biggest internet troll ever.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dr. T

    The astrologer quoted in the article is historically incorrect in saying that Western astrology has always been based on a "tropical zodiac." In the Middle Ages it was understood that the heavens influenced the Earth. It was accepted that different portions of the heavenly spheres might have different effects, and when the effects of different spheres were combined (say a particular planet lining up with a particular set of stars) they could produce a particular set of effects on Earth. So astrology was tied to the locations of the planets (including the sun and moon, which were thought of as planets then) relative to each other and relative to the stars. I'm pretty sure this is what is in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, though I haven't read it to be sure. Anyway, precession of Earth's rotational axis has slowly altered the dates during which the sun passes in front of a given constellation of stars. It is not a sudden effect, but one that has occurred slowly over millenia. What all this really shows is that astrology has no basis in fact and should be used solely for the purpose of entertainment (and, let's face it, there is better entertainment out there these days).

    January 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. tony

    Genesis 1-14

    January 14, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. victor

    The Perfect San Valentine gift, is the #1 online Shop, http://WWW.OUTLETDISTRIBUTORS.COM

    January 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. victor

    The Perfect San Valentine gift, is the #1 online Shop http://WWW.OUTLETDISTRIBUTORS.COM

    January 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
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