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. PercyMoo

    I will take the good attributes from BOTH signs!

    January 14, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. goat

    Once again, we waste too much effort on things that do not exist, only because it brings comfort to those who want simple answers to the complexities of life.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Shaw

    Figures. The ancients learned much of what they knew by looking at the world around them. We learn much of what we know from what others have said. It is amazing that our written "knowledge" of the world is so old that the world has literally changed beneath our feet.

    Oh, and by the way, you all realize that Astrology is based on the idea of a geocentric universe, right? Which we of course know is wrong... so where does that leave Astrology?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Name*y

    49 states are covered in snow... CNN reports Global Warming Crisis.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. El Kababa

    No one will admit the astrological truth. It doesn't matter which sign you were born under. It's the sign you were CONCEIVED under that controls your future.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      I highly doubt that controls your future.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. LiveWire

    As a mathematician, I'm fairly sure that the only reason that Ophiuchus was eliminated is that the Babylonians used a base-60 number system, and 12 goes into 60, making it fit with their counting system, whereas 13 does not.

    As for "astrology is proven by science", try again. Science has DISproven astrology many times over, but astrology believers choose to ignore the evidence. Try this: cut out readings and hand them to people of the proper star sign. See how many agree with how it applies to them. Cut off the star sign and then try again and hand them out completely at random. If there are statistically significant different results, let us know, but I hypothesize you will not find any significant difference, if you are doing this properly.

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

      ^ may be the only worthwhile comment on this page.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Zydeco2go

    I always felt I was a Gemini trapped in a Cancer's body my whole life. I just didnt seem to fit in anywhere, I was lost. I was slotted for Zodiac Change Surgery next month. I feel free now!! and the 10K I was going to pay for the surgery Im gonna invest with Bernie Madoff!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lorin

    So if my sign is Aries or was Aries am I still aries or did it change?

    January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. cat

    Good to know, now I don't have to panic for suddenly being a capricorn rather than an aquarius. I fit aquarius to a "t," though I actually do have some attributes of capricorn. Living in the west, I think I'll stick with the tropical zodiac. I don't put much stock in it–though it's very interesting.

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

    scrap the Sun sign tattoos – it seems your brains just went by Uranus
    .....might wanna check those pants for leftovers.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. Zydeco2go

    I always felt I was a Gemini trapped in a Cancer's body my whole life. I just didnt seem to fit in anywhere, I was lost. I was slotted for Zodiac Change Surgery next month. I feel free now!! and the 10K I was going to pay for the surgery Im gonna invest with Bernie Madoff!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. sol cohen

    I'M A AQUERIUS AND THATS THAT

    January 14, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. lalacupcake

    this is sooo weird why would it change

    January 14, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • SarBear

      Clearly you didn't read the article or the words were too big for you. The solar system is always moving. Where Earth and the stars were a thousand years ago is not the same location it is now. With even a tiny difference, over time it builds up to the point where the stars and suns in your sign are no longer there during the dates they used to be.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. alewatcher

    Astrology is still a load of horse crap anyway, regardless of which Zodiac you use. That hasn't changed.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. adam

    Deciding whether or not astrological signs are wrong is like debating the color of unicorns.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
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