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 (1,486 Responses)
  1. Katherine

    I was so impressed by Rachel Maddow when she reported this "news" tonight. Now - what else should I not believe that she said?? (Darn it; I really liked what she had to say about the Second Amendment and returning to sane gun laws. Someone should have made SURE this was correct, before she went on about it at length...)

    January 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Happy BDay Rush!

      Rachel Maddow. I love that guy

      January 14, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Judith Johnson

      Well, she did preface the story by saying she was trying to lighten things up a bit....

      January 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan Marrin

    THANK GOD, BECAUSE THIS WAS SCARING THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jt

    i'm am a PROUD ARIES, i would so RAM this concept up their a** :D, change my sign?? i'll give ya change my sign lololol!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron Jeremy

      Speaking of ramming stuff up, what are you doing later?

      January 14, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Shane

    Thank you! I was able to calm all of my facebook friends down.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Katherine

    Hey, Charlie! Me, too!! I am a "triple Pisces", have always been, and will always be. When I heard Rachel Maddow's talk, I tried on being an Aquarian - then said, "No way." (My daughter is, though, and boy! are we different!)

    January 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Harliquien

    Think everyone needs to breath and take a valium look up and be thankful!!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew in DC

    Somewhere, theres an astronomer laughing his ass off because he just successfully trolled the entire astrology-following contingent in the country.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • didge

      amazing 😀

      January 14, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. Emily

    If you people do not think this is news then why are you taking the time to comment on it? If you don't like it then just don't read it. If its all bull to you then just don't pay any attention to it like everyone else would do.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Harliquien

    And I'm a CapriCorn!
    Marring a Virgo my mother is a Aquarius and my dad a Saggitarius! We are exactly what we are !!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Allison

    The thing is, the "tropical" Western system was made up by people out for your money, because the actually historically accurate system one was too confusing. So yes, if you put any merit in what the Greeks used, which I'm sure is what you all thought you were doing, you were being fooled. In any case, the earth has moved significantly from where it was during Greek times, so theres really no way to follow the ancient system.
    Which is fine, because that was also made up.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      Not so... Unless Ptolemy in the 2nd Century CE was out to get my money.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Harliquien

    And fairies are real unicorns are extinct Lmao!!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Panda

    You can't convince me for one second that the astrology I've lived by is incorrect, and it appears that those of us who do actually live by the zodiac, feel the same. SCREW whatever jerk made this up (or brought it up-AGAIN) and lets continue our lives the sign we know we were born under. Gemini for life!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • FuzziVello

      I live my life with a scorpion on my chest but it truly means nothing too anyone but me. If anyone has heard of the Oriental legend of the scorpion and the frog than youd know that its what it means too me as a person. Too say that I have the same traits as joe smith born within a day or two of me kinda makes me less of an individual.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. doug

    Pshh

    January 14, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. chaostheoryman

    The article is sort of bogus. The astrological sign of Aries begins on the first day of spring (spring equinox), and Libra, not Capricorn (three signs over) is the astrological sign which begins on the fall equinox (first day of fall). And the sun is indeed in front of the next sign over from your astrological "Sun" sign, on your birthday, no matter where you are on earth (only). There's NO other way to look up (from earth) and see that this isn't the case. If you want to see where Mars or Jupiter or any other planet are on any given night, you cannot consult an astrology chart, because it will be off by 30 degrees – you need to consult an astronomer's chart, available on many astronomy websites. And if you spend enough nights out there looking up, you will indeed even without the charts realize that the astrology dates are all off by a month.
    This is even with the given that the sign actually refers to the 30 degree area in that direction, not the actual stars themselves (which may only cover a small portion of that 1/12 of the circle). The confusing thing about Ophiucus is that part of the constellation protrudes into the zodiac band (as does Cepheus) – but just a wee bit...and 12 is such a nicer number to divide than 12.5 or 13 or 13.5 or 14.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bernard Charles

    Oh gosh what a relief this is! Maybe I should take down that blog post lol.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
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