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. LNader

    I love these folks that say 'god isn't real', just to be internet cool. This (where I am, anywho) is America, and you can believe whatever you want. But is it worth the possibility of losing your immortal soul, just so a bunch of folks on CNN comments 'like' what you say? Is it really that big a hangup to accept even the possibility of something grander than yourself?

    P.S. I've read the Bible, and I honestly don't remember the passage that says "Thou shall not cut thine hair". If I could get a book / verse plz. Leviticus, maybe? I just don't remember it.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      The most often (mis)quoted one is Numbers 6:5, but that only applies to those who had taken the vow of the Nazarite. (you gotta read around the verse to get the context and understand what is being talked about,not just a single verse out of context)

      January 14, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Joeybadabing

      Lev.19:27

      January 14, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Name*y

    CNN always on the leading-edge of science.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kevin

    Astrology: noun 1. the mass cultural delusion that the sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your personality. (see hogwash)

    January 14, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. HOAX Overlapping Days

    The "new" chart has 13 overlapping days – someone on April 18 would be both a Pisces and Aries.

    This has to be a hoax!

    Is this coming from The Onion or an early April Fools prank?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Yes, astrology is a hoax.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Andie

    Yet again, a news network that doesn't seem to give a whit about research, correct information or worthy “news” stories. "The 13th sign was dropped because they wanted 12" REALLY???????? Are you kidding me?????? These two zodiac charts have been in use for thousands of years and you STILL can’t uncover the truth about them. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CNN check your facts, better yet, give us NEWS. I really can't decided which is worse, the misinformation in this story or the fact it's a story at all.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. AaronS

    Although I don't believe in astrology, I must tell you that my "new" sign made much more sense than my old one. I'm betting that millions of other people felt the same way. Of course, if you put all the horoscopes in a hat and had people draw them at random, most of them would likely identify with whatever they drew.

    That being said, though I was born on my mother's birthday, we are very different people–and we're both Leo's!

    January 14, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. DrMabuse

    Because of precession, astrological signs are probably off by 2 or 3 months since the fake science's inception about 5,000 years ago.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. greg

    Most popular story right now? Must be a very very very slow news day today

    January 14, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Name*y

    Y'all believe in CNN?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Enlight

      no of course not.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tetsu-neko

    It's "millennia", not "millenniums", people!

    January 14, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. greg

    I was born on March 20th...what would that make me then? Am I an Aquarian?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • LiveWire

      Aquarium?

      January 14, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. GKAK

    anyone who believes in astrology is an not well, and if you placed a tattoo of you sign on your body then you are just a complete moron...

    January 14, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • blah

      Bet you know what sign you are though...

      January 14, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Shermaine

      What an awesome way to explain this-now I know eeryvthing!

      July 30, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joeybadabing

    Lev. 19:27

    January 14, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Name*y

    ASTROLOGY caused the Tucson massacre... Loughlin suffered from zodiac dysmorphic disorder. Tune in to Anderson Cooper 360 for an in-depth analysis.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Andrew

    I'm happy following the Chinese Zodiac because I'm the almighty dragon. Earth dragon to be specific, certainly better than the boring old gemini.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:39 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