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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Filed under: Space
soundoff (1,486 Responses)
  1. Iman Azol

    I blame global warming.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Iman Azol

    Well, not exactly. That you believe creationism is a "Theory" indicates your science education was inadequate. It IS a belief, but a belief is not a theory, and a theory is only believed as long as it is supported by evidentiary, testable facts. Since you have no intention of changing your belief regardless of evidence, it would fail as a theory. It also fails because it has no testable facts to support the concept, which is not even an hypothesis. A doctrinal book edited from bronze age observations that are not duplicable and contradict observed phenomena is not evidence.

    The proper chain is: Observation. Compilation of data. Weak hypothesis that explains data. Ongoing attempts to disprove hypothesis with conflicting data (Where any religion falls flat. You have no intention of trying to prove your beliefs are wrong). If attempts to disprove fail, it becomes a strong hypothesis. Further refinement of repeatable predictions based on hypothesis. If successful, it becomes a theory. Further accurate predictions strengthen theory.

    Gravity is a theory. Evolution is a theory. Global warming is a weak hypothesis. Creationism and any other religious concepts are beliefs without evidentiary basis.

    To be fair, there are, at best, only weak hypotheses as to what existed before the universe. But what happened since that moment IS observable, and has nothing to do with any creation myth, whether Hindu, Judeo-Christian, Native American, Aboriginal or otherwise.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LeAndrea

    th is so not true. All Scorpios are not ass holes. Maybe you are but i am never a ass hole. Grant we are a little moody but we are never ass holes. Maybe thats just u being rude but dont ever say its a Scorpio thing. Please get your facts right before you go and say that about all Scorpios. Thank You!

    January 20, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Wastrel

    Adding a sign to the Zodiac, making a total of 13, is a way of making astrology more Muslim-friendly. Now, if only the Muslims were friendly, we'd be getting somewhere.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Khushboo83

      Haha...funny post 🙂 Actually the Islamic calendar also has 12 months, however the length of the year is roughly 11 days shorter. Don't look at the idiots who ruin things for everyone else...Most of us are pretty friendly =) Every group has their black sheep.

      January 23, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Your mom

      The Jewish calendar has 12 months and sometimes 13.

      It's based on both the sun & the moon and is therefore the most accurate. 🙂

      February 1, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Skeptic

    It cracks me up that the Western "season-based" zodiac turns out to have nothing to do with the stars at all, even though that's still the story people use to explain how it works. It's just a game, folks, enjoy it but don't take it so seriously.

    @Shannon, there are lots of gods that humans believe in, and many of them are quite jealous. So if you've backed the wrong horse in Jesus, you may spend eternity in torment anyway. I hope not, but FYI. It's one of the reasons I don't bother to force myself to believe in something that makes no sense.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. brownie

    I feel like being a Scorpio today, so I will be. That's how much I believe in this nonsense.

    January 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. virgo

    i still don't understand why people are freaking out about this so much. :/

    January 20, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • kat

      peppes are freaking out cause everyones world is sucking right now!!!!! alot of humans need something to believe life will be better......Really only we can make our lives better...chose to be the better person everytime and it will make life better...:) an this coming from some one who believes we make are own destiny.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kirsten:)

    So glad I'm not a libra since I like Scorpio better

    January 23, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. coolmaxhot

    compare your sidereal and tropical zodiac at coolmaxhot.com

    January 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lurch

    Huh?

    January 24, 2011 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    Thank you. Where whas this article AT THE TIME? I had to refute it myself like 6 times, as the only person in my immediate circle who understood and could explain the precession of the equinoxes and the difference between the tropical and sidereal zodiac. Maybe your editors care more about creating a media circus than about getting facts straight. And if they do, that's fine, but please bill yourselves as entertainment, not journalism. This has not been news for 2000 years.

    January 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BB

    nice!

    January 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cleareye

    Anyone who takes this cartoon stuff seriously is in need of help.
    An intelligent person would think after a thousand years of fabricated BS that people would learn they are being taken for a ride. Supporters cannot point to one tiny bit of evidence to back their claims. One would think that knowing the future would give a person an advantage in life and therefore they would excel. Sorry, the most successful lives are lived by open minded, freethinking, non-hooey believers.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cleareye

    What will all the girls in the bar say when I tell them I don't know my sign???????????

    January 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cleareye

    We can't forget that Nancy Reagan advised her husband based on her horoscope!
    The Alzheimer's was only part of his problem.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
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