Most people are familiar with their zodiac sign, even those who don’t profess any belief in astrology. It’s such an ingrained part of our culture that it’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing what you’re talking about when you use this word.
Zodiac means ‘circle of animals’ — this is in spite of several of the signs not being animals — and comes into our language from the ancient Greek zōidiakos.
Astrology comes from two other Greek words, astro meaning ‘star’ and logy meaning ‘language of’. The ancient practice of astrology is a means of listening to how the stars talk to one another and to us.
It is based on the idea of a circle of constellations that surrounds the Earth. In astrology, the Earth is viewed as being at the center of our solar system. The sun and the moon are considered to be planets that orbit the Earth.
The circle is divided into 12 sections of 30 degrees each with an individual sign ruling over its own slice of the circle. As the sun, moon, and planets (and to a less common extent, some asteroids) pass through these slices, they generate, magnify, and reflect certain energies. These energies are elemental triplicities — four elements with three signs in each element and polarities of active and receptive signs — classically referred to as the masculine and feminine signs, respectively.
Each sign also has a planetary ruler which dominates the attributes associated with that sign. If you study classical Greek and Roman mythology to learn about the Gods that share the planets’ names, you will gain a lot of insight into these personality quirks.
For example, the sign of Aries is ruled by the planet Mars. In Roman mythology, Mars is the god of war and battle. He is aggressive, headstrong, and very physically attuned. Aries is said to embody these traits as well.
Taurus is ruled by Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Taurus people are said to enjoy the comforts of life, being surrounded by beautiful things, and have very passionate and romantic natures.
Dates that are given in newspapers and magazines for your sign are only speaking of the sign that the sun was in when you were born. This is because the Sun is one of the biggest, brightest, and most influential forces in a zodiac chart. The other two biggies are the sign the moon was in at your birth and your ascendant (or rising sign) which is the sign on the horizon at the time of your birth. This trifecta makes up the biggest chunk of your zodiac chart.
Dates for when the sun enters and leaves a particular sign can also vary. This is because our year is not exactly 365 days long, and so the date that the sun enters (ingress) or leaves (egress) a sign changes from year to year.
Aries might begin on April 19th one year, and for another, it won’t show up until April 21st.
This time span from the 18th-23rd of each month is referred to as a cusp. If you are a cusp sign, you may possess the traits of both signs that cover that in-between fuzzy area. Newspapers and magazines are not reliable here. Even though the sun moves from one sign to another during the cusp period, you still only have one actual sun sign. If you are born during a cusp, the only way to be certain which sign is your sun sign is to have an astrological chart drawn up for you.
I have enjoyed studying and doing astrology since I was very young. I used to draw up charts for my friends in high school to help them understand themselves a bit better. Astrology is based on mathematical calculations but it is still an interpretive art. This suits me very well because I am both an analytical, science-loving nerd (Gemini Sun and Gemini Rising) and a dreamy intuitive person focused on philosophy and the search for knowledge (Neptune-conjunct-Moon in Sagittarius).
So, it’s a passion of mine that I enjoy a great deal and I’m happy to share it with others.