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. Julia

    Thank you. I'm not a goal-setting, hard-working Capricorn and I knew it 🙂 I'm an aloof and eccentric Aquarius.
    Long live the Aquarians!

    January 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Beware_of_God

    Hey people, Astrology isn't a science. If you want to understand your place in the universe, study Astronomy. You will then be aware of the shallowness of believing in explanations about life and our world thought up thousands of years ago by people who thought that if they walked to far they might fall off the edge of the world.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • omnipotent

      It is a widely proven fact that more accidents occur under a full moon, also arrests are higher cross culturally. If the moon effects human behavior, then why wouldn't the sun and the rest?

      January 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rstybeach

    Astrology is no better than any religion. It benefits society by bringing people together and giving them something to think about. That's about it. Whatever meaning is derived from it benefits a few. Just as much as seeing a black bird on one's porch is viewed as good luck, someone else might view it as bad luck. It's all speculative until it is testable. Until then, astrology is simply an untestable belief system, just like Catholicism. Nothing more, nothing less.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merle

      Astrology is absolutely, completely testable. It makes concrete predictions and can thus be proven or disproven – and it's been quite thoroughly disproven.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Aunt Linda

    Sadly, The article has seemingly caused only more confusion for those of us who are not well acquainted with complex astronomy. I'll try to break it down into it's essential principles for those who have the patience and the desire to learn:

    Firstly, What exactly is the Zodiac?

    1. The Zodiac modern astrologers use was first invented 2500 years ago by the Ancient Babylonians (a civilization based in the territory which is present-day Iraq.)
    2. It is based upon the precise path of the sun through the background of stars, which is called the "Ecliptic" by astronomers. (We would be able to see the sun among the stars in the daytime were it not for the presence of Earth's thick nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere which turns the sky a bright blue color).
    3 The moon, and planets share approximately the same orbital plane as the earth, so they too trace paths through a zone of the sky that is very near the ecliptic.
    4. The Babylonian astronomers divided the Ecliptic into 12 equal chunks of celestial real-estate, which correspond to the 12 constellations (recognized by babylonian astronomers) and the area of the sky immediately adjacent to them , these are the 12 signs of the Zodiac used by most modern astrologers.

    OK, so what is all this business about "Precession"

    4. The gravitational influences of the sun, moon (and to a much lesser extent the other planets) upon the Earth cause the direction (not the tilt, mind you) of its axis relative to the stars to slowly wobble. Over a 25,771.5 year cycle the earth's axis completes on full wobble. This is what is known as "The Precession of the equinoxes". Therefore, the actual position of the sun in the Ecliptic at any given time of year completes one full cycle every 25,771.5 years. For example, is the sun is in Saggitarius today, Then on this date in 25,771.5 years it will be again be in Saggitarius. Simple Arithmetic tells us that every 1/12th of that cycle the Sun changes signs, so it takes about 2,150 years for this to happen.

    So how does all of this affect my sign?
    5. OK. So it's been about 2500 years since the Babylonian Zodiac was created. Unfortunately the Babylonians were unaware of the phenomenon of Precession, However 350 years later it was discovered by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, A couple hundred years after that the Roman Astronomer/Astrologer Ptolemy, added Ophiuchus to the list.(say: oh-FI-yuck-us) a 13th Zodiacal constellation between Saggitarius and Scorpio. This is one of the 88 constellations used by modern astronomers to map out the sky, but it has not been used by the majority of astrologers, both in Ptolemy's time as well as today. Ptolemy was also aware of Precession, but chose to ignore it for astrological purposes.

    6. Most contemporary Astrologers use one of two Zodiacs with 12 signs: Tropical and Sidereal.

    7.The "Tropical" Zodiac is fixed to the months of the calendar, using the Vernal Equinox (March 21-22) as the starting point. Thereby reflecting the position of the sun as it would have been on any given date in Babylonian times rather than any up-to-date astronomical reality. This Zodiac follows a coordinate system dividing the 360-degree Zodiac into 12 30-degree sections. This is the system used by the majority of Western Astrologers

    8The "Sidereal" Zodiac, on the other hand is based upon the actual position of the Sun in the sky in real time. This Zodiac is used by Hindu Astrologers and some Western Astrologers.
    it is also (usually) divided into 12 30-degree regions.

    9. Complicating this further, a small minority of modern Astrologers using the Sidereal system have abandoned the 12 sign system in favor of the 13 constellations listed by Ptolemy and decided to use the constellation boundaries as defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) (the scientific body which regulates modern astronomy). As the IAU constellation boundaries are determined by the actual width of the constellations, rather than broken up into 12 equal sized segments. Rather than consistently being a month long, the periods of time allocated for each sign under this regime vary from as short 5 days(Scorpius) to as long as 45 days (Virgo).

    So has my sign Changed?
    10. That's entirely up to you. If you prefer to stick with prevailing astrological tradition (perhaps habit would be a better term) regardless of astronomical reality, then no, it hasn't. However if you prefer to use a system of astrology based upon actual celestial occurrences,(i.e. if you're a Libra and you're chart says Mars is in your sign you can Look up in the sky and see it shining bright in Libra) then perhaps you should consider going with the new calendar.

    11. Additional Tidbits:
    Both the Babylonians and the Romans were only aware of 5 of the 7 planets visible from Earth: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. after the telescope was invented around the turn of the 17th century 2 very large planets were discovered: Uranus in 1781 and Neptune in 1846. (Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was considered a planet for 76 years but got demoted by the IAU to "dwarf planet" status in 2006. The decision was fairly controversial but we won't get into that here.) Most astrologers use the 5 classical planets exclusively in their predictions but some have also taken Uranus and Neptune into account.

    My Two Cents:
    The Babylonians designed a system of astrology that was as accurate as possible for their day. Wouldn't It make sense for modern astrologers to do the same?

    January 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandy

      wow thank you! and to answer your question at the very end...YES!

      January 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Anyone acquainted with "complex astronomy" could give a rat's ass about astrology.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lakesidefantasy

      Thumbs Up.

      Thanks Aunt Linda, that was very well put.

      I was wondering if, in tropical astrology, the planets and the Moon follow the same tropical convention?

      January 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      thank you, aunt linda, for taking the time to explain all of that... i found that very interesting!

      January 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      Thank you for all of this information Linda.

      January 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jonathan

    What a relief, I was worried there for a second that I wasn't who I thought I was all these years. I was afraid I'd have to learn a whole new personality. Which is really bad, because the signs on either side of me don't fit me at all. 🙂

    January 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kimeri

    I think you guys are just silly, getting so off topic. why bring in religion into an article strictly about zodiac signs and the months assigned to them changing? it's nonsense. no wonder the world is gonna end in 2012 with people like this fighting 😛

    January 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimeri

      by the way, I'm 17 and realize this fact haha.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tye Dye

    Merry Meet All,
    Not Christians/Jews//Muslims have known this for two thousand years.
    The followers of the old ways & the wisdom the wise ones that has been passed down over the years is just now making news again (much like herbal medicine,massage therapy,positive thinking & meditation ,which are all practiced now ... started by pagans ).
    Live in Light,
    Tye Dye

    January 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merle

      Don't get too smug there, dear.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jinda

    "... or would ya rather be a mule"

    January 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Theonlyjuan

    This zodiac stuff is a myth and Jesus was born on 4/20.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Merle

    Astrology is a scam, and has been for the past hundred years. This is nothing more than wasted effort.
    If you are an astrologer, then knowingly or not, you are scamming people. Go find a useful job, please.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • omnipotent

      What is your useful job, Merle?

      January 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nunya

    Glad this article was posted.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark C

    Morons will be morons, whatever their sign. People who continue to believe this crap in the 21st should do the gene pool a favor and jump off the nearest bridge.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lakesidefantasy

    I was shocked ten years ago when I used a virtual planetarium program to see where in the sky all of the planets were located on the date of my birth–June 25th. I'm a Cancer but the Sun was quite clearly in the constellation of Gemini on the far side away from Cancer and closer to Taurus on June 25th. I even confirmed this be inferring the position of the Sun from the position of the full Moon nearest to my birth date, and I've been laughing ever since.

    I think the best thing we can all learn from this is that your astrological sign most likely does not reflect what constellation the Sun was in at the time of your birth.

    Here is a helpful link for anybody who is interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidereal_astrology

    January 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pisces

    Emotional appealment lol damn, to each thier own, enough bickering lollll GLAD THEYRE NOT CHANGING ANYTHING THOUGH.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Aye!

    I'm having a good time. You guys having a good time?

    January 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ElijahsFury

      Hell Yeah!

      January 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm | 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