The “13th Sign” – Science or Science-Fiction?

I’m still getting anxious texts and Facebook messages from people asking me about the “new zodiac” and whether they’re still an Aquarian, or gulp, God forbid, a Capricorn.  Clearly this is a veeerrry urgent concern, so this post is for all of my little radishes out there who do not want to be any other sign than the sign they thought they were!

In short: fear not, Little Radishes!  You are still Radishes!  Or Aquarians, or whatever it was you were before this “new discovery.”  In fact, neither the Precession of the Equinox (which incidentally is the phenomena responsible for the idea of the Age of Aquarius) nor the constellation Ophiuchus are new discoveries, least of all to astrologers.  Knowledge of both dates back over two thousand years ago to a time when the terms astrology and astronomy were synonymous, so the fact is, the discoveries were very likely made by someone who also practiced divination.   Neither of them affects our craft because our craft is actually not (despite widespread popular belief) based on the constellations.

I can understand that this sounds absurd when it’s common astrological lore to talk about the double-faced Gemini “twins,” and the unforgiving sting of the Scorpio “scorpion.”  Never the less, it’s true.  Western astrology is based on the relationship of the earth to the sun and moon, or the seasons, not on the relationship of the earth to the constellations.  In other words, 0 degree Aries is the beginning of the western zodiac and it always coincides with the spring equinox, NOT 0 degree Aries the constellation.  It’s been this way since Ptolemy in 200 AD, and although no one knows exactly why the ancient Greeks decided to abandon a sidereal zodiac (based on constellations) for the tropical (based on seasons) they did, and it fits in nicely with the Greek obsession for the ideal, the perfect. The western zodiac is simply the circle divided into 12 equal portions all balancing each other out – it’s very yin and yang, and the Greeks conceived it as a perfect representation of a perfect, ordered world.

Hence a sign is simply a 30 degree division of a 360 degree circle, with no relation to a constellation.  Therefore the proposal of a “13th sign” is irrelevant.  Since the signs are not based on constellations, the fact that there are more than 12 constellations has no bearing on anything.

However, modern astronomers are naturally prone to error in their assumptions about astrology, and periodically they like to pose both these astronomical facts as “proof” that astrologers are ignorant of the astronomy behind their craft and hence that astrology is bunk.  This time, for whatever reason, the internets caught hold of the canard and the whole thing went viral.

For more information on zodiac symbols and why astrologers continue to use them to describe signs, stay tuned to this space – I’m working on another article to explain this further!

For more about the 13th constellation and how that isn’t the same thing as the 13th sign please check these articles: