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. Jimbo

    I have an article written by Issac Asimov from "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" dated September 1973 called "Signs of the Times" that describes this very subject, 13 signs of the zodiac, unequal durations, and so forth. So, this in nothing new. If you are a skeptic, or even a believer, you should read this article. Asimov was a skeptic as evidenced by this excerpt from the article.

    "In any case, astrologers make it easier for themselves by pretending that the constellations are equal in width and that the Sun remains an equal number of days in each. That simplifies the mathematics and places less of a strain on the astrologer."

    Hilarious! Here is a link to the cover of the magazine with the article. I haven't found a link to the article itself, unfortunately.

    http://pulparchive.com/fantasy-science-fiction-september-1973/

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

    I remember learning this like 7 years ago in my high school astronomy class. Why is this suddenly news?

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

    No kidding – They know about planets but nothing about the stars !
    joansastrology.blogspot.com

    January 14, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Really?

    I didn't realize just how much so many people freaked out because they're "no longer their sign". Too many people get way too much into their horoscope. I say discover what your day is going to be like by yourself. Everything in horoscopes can be generalized anyway and can mostly be identifiable with almost everyone. Don't look so closely at it. Consider it more of a hobby and don't let it control your life.

    Besides. If your sign was "supposed" to be something else for so long anyway, you've been pretty much living a lie.

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

    I like reading my horoscope everyonce in awhile...but really..who gives a crap?

    January 14, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matt M

    We have a telescope that can see to the edge of the universe, and you guys are giving your attention to an ancient and provably false mythology. It kind of pains me.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      Here ya go buddy:
      http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/11/hubble-finds-ghostly-object-in-deep-space/?iref=allsearch
      Have fun with this crap article.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joshua

    Astrology is as fictional as religion. I don't see what all the fuss is about. You all participate in 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. Good call.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chris Fisher

    PS: There is no loving or caring god either, sorry!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. ruw morgue

    So, if I follow the tropical zodiac, then my sign does *not* match the stars in the sky. So, why is this called *astro*logy? Should it be called BS?

    January 14, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. DCist

    what..... did Sarah Palin help write this article?! Its MILLENNIA and NOT Millenniums!!!!!!! Gosh...

    January 14, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. JB29

    Everyone - as much as Zodiac and astrology is fun and entertaining and can eerily come off as realistic we need to remember that it is MAN-MADE (human-made to accommodate the politically correct people here). Sure, it dates far back thousands of years and that in itself can come off as "mystical" however it was people who invented all the stuff to help explain the unknown. Imagine 2000 years ago looking up into the sky without the knowledge we have today. Humanity's quest for answers have always lead us to conjecture. Even today scientists look for this fabled Higgs Boson quartk that supposedly answers many questions regarding how basic elements in the universe interact and fit together. Who knows, a thousand years from now our successors may look at us an laugh at us for believing this building block exists as it may be something totally different (maybe even spiritual for those who covet faith over science). Time will tell!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lifealteringnews

    So I was once a Capricorn and my personality was defined by that sign. Now I am a Sagittarius? I feel more like a schizophrenic now.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. kelli

    Darn. My new one is so much more accurate.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ed Sallee

    So did it change or not?Someone please tell us the truth!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gary W

    Every generation, we find that what used to be science fiction has become science fact. Just because scientists have proven today that the alignment of the universe has nothing to do with our personalities and when we were born does not mean that in the future we won't discover something different and prove it to be true.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Enlight

      lovelove

      January 14, 2011 at 11:01 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