Astrology 101:2 – The Zodiac

The zodiac is the backdrop of star constellations against which the Sun, Moon and planets move as seen from our viewpoint here on Earth. They are listed as follows: Aries (Ram); Taurus (Bull): Gemini (Twins); Cancer (Crab); Leo (Lion); Virgo (Virgin); Libra (Scales); Scorpio (Scorpion); Sagittarius (Centaur); Capricorn (Sea Goat); Aquarius (Water Bearer); Pisces (Fish). Each sign has a (notional) 30 degree piece of the sky which conveniently adds up to a full 360 degree circle. They are the constellations which lie on the plane of the ecliptic along which the Lights and planets move in their annual dance across the heavens.

Please note that there are twelve (12) signs. No more, no less, despite what sceptics like Dara O’Briain, Prof. Brian Cox or NASA might tell you. It’s been twelve signs since the system got started and it will remain that way.

Yes, astrologers know perfectly well that, because of the phenomenon of precession of the equinoxes caused by an endearing little wobble as the Earth rotates about its axis, the zodiacal constellations don’t line up like what they used to. This means that March 21st or so is when the Sun, by observation, moves into Pisces rather than Aries. But there’s a really good reason why that doesn’t matter.

It’s because the astrological signs don’t actually mean anything.

Just like the months on a calendar, the astrological ‘signs’ are convenient ways of marking the passage of the Sun around the Earth. For social and commercial purposes the world standard is the Gregorian calendar which is the one you have hanging on your wall. But there are other calendars in daily use everywhere in the world which have uses for religious observances, local feasts and the like. So Midsummer Day (for the northern hemisphere, anyway) next year falls on June 24th (Gregorian), 11th of Tamuz, 5778 (Jewish), Ding Si day, Ji Wei month, Wu Xu year (Chinese) or, astrologically, 3rd of Cancer. However you measure it, though, it’s still Midsummer Day.

When this astrology thing all started to get organised, it was observed that those born in the thirty-day period following the Spring Equinox tended to have the qualities associated with the local variation of ram. Those born in the following thirty-day period tended to have the qualities of a bull, and so on through the year. That pretty much followed the positions of the corresponding constellations in the zodiac and, given that very few people could read or write, it meant that astrologers could at least tie the days to a system which was illustrated in the sky, along with any necessary explanatory stories to get the point across.

Precession of the equinoxes means that the astrological markers (signs of the zodiac) no longer line up with the observed astronomical ingresses (Technical Term #4). That’s not a problem. In the same way that November is no longer the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar (from the latin novem, nine) but still retains its name, so Aries is still the first ‘month’ of the astrological ‘calendar’. It’s also still the point at which Ariens are born instead of Pisceans.

So let’s have a look at the attributes, for and against, each sign of the zodiac. The symbol next to each name is its ‘glyph’ (Technical Term #5), a sort of astrological shorthand.

x  Aries: Short attention span, great starters but poor finishers, enthusiastic, impulsive, brave but also reckless, selfish, thoughtless, impatient. Quick to anger but over just as quickly.

Taurus: Practical, patient, strong-willed, loves food, luxury and also other sensual pleasures, trustworthy. The downside of that, of course, is that they can be stubborn, greedy and possessive. And very, very lazy.

v   Gemini: Versatile, communicative, witty, lively, rational. Restless, changeable, flippant, inconsistent, superficial.

b  Cancer: Sensitive, sympathetic, imaginative, protective, nurturing, kind, cautious. On the other hand; self-pitying, touchy, unforgiving. A tough exterior can hide a weak character.

n  Leo: Generous, dramatic, enthusiastic, creative, broadminded. Also pompous, conceited, dogmatic, snobbish and possibly tyrannical.

m  Virgo: Analytical, tidy, modest, hard working. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Health conscious bordering on hypochondria, fussy, hypercritical, pedantic. There’s always a downside.

X  Libra: Harmonious, balanced, refined, fair, charming, diplomatic. indecisive, resentful, changeable, flirtatious, gullible.

C  Scorpio: Passionate, secretive, trustworthy, intense, determined. Jealous, scheming, secretive, suspicious. Don’t cross a Scorpio; you’ll be looking over your shoulder until they get their revenge.

V  Sagittarius: Joyful, freedom-loving, sincere, frank, philosophical. Careless, capricious, irresponsible, prone to exaggeration and with a tendency to open his mouth only in order to change feet.

B  Capricorn: Determined, reliable, cautious, disciplined, traditionalist. Mean, rigid, pessimistic, a wet blanket.

N  Aquarius: Independent, friendly, progressive, original, loyal. Eccentric, unpredictable, contrary and yet with fixed opinions.

M  Pisces: Compassionate, sympathetic, intuitive, kind, humble, emotional. Vague, disordered, weak-willed, indecisive.

That is by no means an exhaustive run-down of the twelve signs but it will do to be going on with.

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