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  • Writer's pictureFrank DiGiovanni

Lies in the sky

Really quick, what is your astrological symbol? I asked the other staff members here this same question and was given the answers: Capricorn (Bill), Cancer (Helene and Caitlin), Taurus (Kristen), Pisces (Sofia), and Gemini (me).

I am sure it took you all of a few seconds to think about it and come up with one of the 12 astrological symbols and the one you've been assigned... Chances are, it's completely wrong.

Before I get into the "science" behind Astrology, it's important to know a little something about me. I consider myself to be a "healthy skeptic". Meaning, that I always look to see the dubiousness in something I am presented with until evidence is presented to me that might contradict and prove me wrong. I am not so stubborn to stick to something I believe in when presented with facts, but I have to see facts before I change my mind. In this case, to be a "healthy skeptic" means you're not doubting something just for the sake of it. But rather, you are questioning things to discover a truth, that helps you come to a decision - and here's the important part- logically.

But what is it about the Zodiac constellations that makes us believe that the stars, moon and sun have any influence over our behavior, personality and connections in the mates we look for? In order to sort that out, we must travel into the past, roughly 2,500 years into the past to the Babylonian astrologers and the invention of modern Astrology. It was these early Babylonians that looked to the stars and the zodiac therein, dividing them into 12 slices. Before continuing, it's important to know what the zodiac is.

Zodiac symbols |

Astronomically speaking, the zodiac is a region of space in which the sun travels through throughout the course of the year. It is important to know that the orbits of the Moon and major planets (sorry Pluto) also travel through this belt-shaped region of space. In Western Astrology, this belt was divided into 12 equal portions that ROUGHLY corresponded to the astronomical constellations we're familiar with: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Each was given approximately 30 degrees of the night sky. However, like people, not all constellations are created equally or are the same size, which is leading to the "science" behind these astrological symbols.

Also of importance is the difference between Sidereal and tropical astrology. Here, we must yield to the experts in this field and in this case a website that helps explain these differences easily.

According to, "The Tropical Zodiac is oriented to the Seasons. The Sun enters the 1st degree of the sign Aries on the Spring Equinox, when days and nights are equal. The Sun enters Cancer on Midsummer's Day, the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The Sun enters Libra on the Autumnal Equinox, when again days and nights are equal. The Sun enters Capricorn on the Winter Solstice, when the days are shortest. Much of the meaning attributed to the signs comes from this seasonal orientation. The Sidereal Zodiac is used by the traditional Vedic astrologers of India. It also had its origin in the constellations of the ecliptic. The Sidereal Zodiac is composed also of 12 signs of 30 degrees each. However, rather than being oriented to the Seasons, Aries, the start point of the Sidereal Zodiac, is oriented to the fixed stars. The ayanamsa, the difference between the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac is controversial in Vedic astrology and there is not a consensus on the proper start point for the Sidereal Zodiac.

The Constellational Zodiac is a modern invention and is a Zodiac that corresponds to the physical constellations. Many adherents insist that there are 13 rather than 12 signs/constellations in the Constellational Zodiac, adding Ophiuchus. The signs of the Constellational Zodiac are highly irregular in size and there is controversy over the exact boundaries of each sign.

But how can place any value or trust in something that is completely arbitrary? Something that continues to move, despite somehow standing still? How could the position of the sun, on the day you were born possibly have an influence on who you are? Do you find yourself to be impulsive, passionate and spontaneous? Or are you emotional? Are you 'quick', animated or an intellectual? Or maybe you consider yourself to be quiet, grounded, practical and slow to change, emotionally? According to your star sign element, you could be a Water, Earth, Air, or Fire sign. I am not going to explain the differences here or what you are, rather I'll let you use your judgment to see if you're only one set of these traits or are a combination of them. If you've picked at least one from more than one of those sets, then you can probably tell yourself that Astrology is a very dubious area of study.

Spinning top, demonstrating precession of an axis

We must also consider something called "precession", or the spin within the spin (of the Earth's rotation). Confused? Fair enough, think of the last time you spun a top or dreidel for our Jewish brothers and sisters. The spinning along the axis of rotation isn't always vertical, rather the top spins, as demonstrated by the GIF at right, it wobbles on that axis. What is demonstrated by the gyroscope's wobble is the precession that I am referring to. Precession makes Earth wobble like this gyroscope over the course of about 25,800-year cycle, which is why the North Star, Polaris, will eventually not be the "North Star". Instead, the celestial north pole will move away from Polaris after the 21st century, passing close by Gamma Cephei by about the 41st century, before moving towards Deneb by about the 91st century! This precession has made the original dates assigned to the zodiac constellations be off by over a month in the 2,500 years since they were created! Now a month is not a lot of time in the grand scheme but multiplied over many years, this discrepancy grows even larger.

While we have unlimited access to the vast collection of human knowledge and because some things have been so engrained into our collective, when things come along that directly contradict this assumed-to-be-true knowledge, we have trouble accepting it...This is completely normal, too... So, the idea that a constellation was left out, simply does not compute to those who hold Astrology as something to be listened to or even adhered to! How can we be born under a sun symbol if the sun wasn't even in the actual constellation/sign we've been assigned!? Here we must introduce a constellation that you may have never heard before, but has been around longer than you have: Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer.

Zodiac map, showing path of sun through 13 zodiac constellations | Wikimedia Commons

As one of the 13 constellations that the sun travels through during the course of the year, it feels somewhat foolish to omit it because it was never a "formal" astrological sign; makes astrology feel like an even weaker discipline if you ask me. This omission, of a large constellation, in favor of giving the traditional ones an equal share of "time", leads me to believe it's nothing but smoke and mirrors. But, when Astrology was created things like precession weren't known about. Even NASA had to get involved in 2020 when Ophiuchus gained more notoriety because of an internet hoax that once again resurfaced stating that NASA had changing the zodiac constellations...SPOILER ALERT... They don't REALLY care about the constellations, rather they care about the stars themselves, the objects within the constellations, among other things. But NASA had to address the collective ignorance that permeates the internet on occasion with a statement. Here’s their explanation:

“The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the sun spends different lengths of time with each one. The line from Earth through the sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only 7 days. To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12. Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time.”

Zodiac date table |

With this discussion, I feel it is important to remind us all, that there's only one thing TRULEY responsible for your behaviors: you.

If you chose to subscribe to Astrology, that's fine, nobody can force you to do otherwise. In case you want to know what the original Astrological calendar is versus what it is with Ophiuchus included in it, look no further.

What are you in the old dates versus the new ones? ASTROLOGICALLY speaking, I am a Gemini; ASTRONOMICALLY speaking, I am a Taurus. So, what is it? Am I an Earth sign or Air sign? Am I quick, animated and intellectual? Am I quiet, grounded, practical and slow to change emotionally? SPOILER ALERT! I am all of those, even if I don't like to admit some traits.

If your sign has "changed", don't blame me, don't blame NASA either. Rather, shift that blame to the ancient Babylonians for neglecting and omitting Ophiuchus in the first place. Then direct that blame at everyone who's perpetuated Astrology since then. But since I am two different signs, maybe I'm a true Gemini?

At least that's what I tell myself ;-)

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