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

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 (1,485 Responses)
  1. rob

    Who the F*** cares

    January 14, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Leila Pilien


      January 14, 2011 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • steedchick

      I know right?

      January 14, 2011 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ellie

    I refuse to be identified as an icky cancer! Leo for life! haha. Zodiacs are fake but I guess it's fun to play pretend every now and then!

    January 14, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    try "Journal’s Paper on ESP to Prompt the Truth" written by dr.turi dot com, you will get the facts.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jacob

    Wow. Now this is news! *sarcasm*

    January 14, 2011 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Lil Chez

      Though I really am interested in this that was hilarious. It made me laugh out loud.

      January 14, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ophiuchus

    Aethiests are some of the most devout believers I know.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Barnacle Bill

      At least that's what you *believe*.

      Of course, if you removed your cranium from your rectum, you might see the light.

      As it is, all of that fecal matter gets in the way.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Barnacle Bill is the real rectum in this debate....what an idiot to think that atheists are somehow the lost ones....if only he could see that atheism is the only truth...obviously! how can any rational being really believe anything differently? and to think he tries to "blame" atheists. Bill, emerge from the dark, marine environment in which you exist and stop being a corpuscle of dogmatic reverence...the real world awaits you....

      January 14, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    Wow people are stupid.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Ophiuchus

      I agree. Josh says people are stupid, Josh is a people, Josh...........

      January 14, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Barnacle Bill

    I'm a Wookie. Zodiac signs are subservient to Wookie culture.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Ophiuchus

      Bill says he doesn't ....... in God. Hmmmm what is the word thats missing?

      January 14, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Bill is right, I don't Wookie in God either.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Yourworshipfulness

      Wookiee is spelled with 2 E's.

      January 14, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ophiuchus

    Sounds like someone just found out that there is no Santa

    January 14, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. SeasonalAffectiveDisorder Sufferer

    People who won't leave their homes when their chart tells them not to would surely find something else to be neurotic about if astrology did not exist. I vote for harmless. And then again ... when scientists first debunked astrology, we didn't know things we know now about how seasonal changes DO affect us. Who's to say there's not something to the idea that some consistent patterns can be seen?

    January 14, 2011 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Ophiuchus

      Ironicaly whether it is true or not, I bet someone avoided being killed by staying home at some point.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
    • alanis morissette

      Its ironic that someone has probably died from staying when told going out was dangerous. I reading of the day is leos dont jump off any cliffs. Hero of the day I've saved some Leos.

      January 14, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Andacar

    This is old news. The procession of the equinoxes is a fact that has been general knowledge for centuries. It just hasn't filtered into the insular fad obsessed digital world. Astrology was originally a very simple thing; the sun was crossing the path of a particular constellation, and that was the sign you were born in. Period. You can easily verify that the sun is not in fact in your particular constellation on your birthday through a trivial observation. But then, I have yet to meet an astrology adherent who can point out their particular constellation in the night sky. The ancients who invented astrology would have been the first ones to point out this fact today. It was based on observation, not some "tropical zodiac" dodge to shore up a modern tabloid pop culture quasi-astrology that has virtually no relationship with the original version.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Jawer is wrong

      I agree. Of course Jeff Jawer is going with the "tropical zodiac" Because he runs Who guess what? Dispenses horoscopes...

      Ask someone else... with more weight this time, CNN.

      January 14, 2011 at 4:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jazzjanelle

    Lol. God the internet has created so many retards. Who cares. And fyi the only reason this stupid news gets recognition is bc ppl cant think for themselves and hop on the band wagon of caring which zodiac sign you are. WHO tHe F***K CARES!!!!

    January 14, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. Robert Subiaga, Jr.

    What's really funny about the astrologers trying to "refute" the astronomers is the references they male to Ptolemaic astronomy, as if that saves them.

    Sure Ptolemy "fixed" the signs. Here's what they leave out about Ptolemy though. According to him, the Sun went around the Earth.

    Oh, there's a whole host of problems with that idea, they knew it even then. Explaining how the planets move retrograde in the sky, for one.

    Was Ptolemy's solution a solar system with the Sun at the center though? No, it was a thing called epicycles. Supposedly the planets each moved in an orbit around an imaginary center, which in turn moved in an orbit around the Earth.

    (It was also based on circles rather than ellipses–because of course the circle was a Platonic "perfect" form and it HAD to be that way!)

    The only problem with epicycles? It's a universally applicable mathematical trick. ANY motion of ANY object in the sky could be described, if you used however many circles within circles within circles.

    It was an unfalsifiable system, and it can "prove" anything it conveniently wants. That's why the Church loved it–and repressed Copernican and Galilean astronomy with it. Ptolemaic astronomy was to astronomy what creationism is to biology and geology.

    And "modern astrology" is based on it. Woo-hoo.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • more clever than you think

      Of course it wasn't a perfect system! Think about how long ago he came up with it! he didn't have the technology we have today and he made his best guess as to how to explain it. the fact that he got some answers close to what we have today is astounding in it's own right. What revolutionary theories have you discovered? Get over yourself!

      January 14, 2011 at 4:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Snapdragon

      Thanks Robert, that was a good recap of an important part of astronomic history. Ignore 'more clever...', I think he/she just got up on the wrong side of the bed.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      If the person who replied would like to see where they are wrong, they can look up Hipparchus, the man who came up with the idea of the heliocentric solar system, calculated eclipses, and noted precession: 2 centuries before Ptolemy. Ancient people were more clever than you think.

      January 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A King

    I was born under a bad sign but now I don't know which one??

    January 14, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
    • A Queen

      I was born under a bad sign too, nill by mouth. I chose my new sign Breast Feed into his twenties

      January 14, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cynical Randy

    .....and this is the average intelligence of the run of the mill voter. They adhere to junk science, can name soap opera stars or NASCAR drivers before members of The Cabinet or current Administration.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Ophiuchus

      Randy needs a hug! Maybe you wouldn't be so cynical if you went to a Nascar race instead of spending your time memorzing the names of cabinet members!

      January 14, 2011 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. CharonPDX

    Summary: Don't worry; you were believing in something fake already, who cares if facts don't match up a little more than you thought; the people who make up the fake stuff are saying you're fine.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      nice. i like you

      January 14, 2011 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
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