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The Western Zodiac

The roots of the familiar western zodiac are unsurprizngly difficult to locate to any specific date or region. Undoubtedly, the modern archetypes,


Babylonian astronomers at some point during the 1st millennium BC divided the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude to create the first known celestial coordinate system: a coordinate system that boasts some advantages over modern systems (such as equatorial coordinate system or ecliptic coordinate system). The zodiac is also understood as a region of the celestial sphere that includes a band of eight arc degrees above and below the ecliptic, and therefore encompasses the paths of the Moon and the naked eye planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). The classical astronomers called these planets wandering stars to differentiate them from the fixed stars of the celestial sphere (Ptolemy).

Strictly speaking, the eventual culmination of the classical zodiac includes signs (also constellations) that are not all represented by animals (e.g., Libra, Virgo, Gemini). However, the term probably derives from earlier conceptions of the constellations along the ecliptic as sculpted animals. As with the Chinese zodiac, Indo-European astrologers understand the movement of the planets and the Sun through the zodiac as a method to explain and predict events on Earth.

The modern western astrological signs are simplifications of conventional pictorial representations of the signs, used since Hellenistic times. The characters are encoded in unicode at positions U+2648 to U+2653 (hexadecimal numbers): Aries ♈, Taurus ♉, Gemini ♊, Cancer♋, Leo♌, Virgo♍, Libra♎, Scorpio ♏, Sagittarius ♐, Capricorn ♑, Aquarius ♒, Pisces ♓. The glyph  representation of these characters will depend on the font in which they are displayed.


Zodiac celestial coordinate systems

For any spherical celestial coordinate system one needs to define an equatorial plane and designate an origin for longitude. From these definitions longitudinal meridians perpendicular to the equatorial plane meet at the north and south poles of the celestial sphere and one can precisely specify a unique position on the sphere.

First, the zodiac coordinate system designates the ecliptic as the equatorial plane. One should not confuse the zodiac's equatorial plane with the Earth's equator which is so named because it serves as the equatorial plane for our terrestrial coordinate system. Instead the ecliptic is aligned with the Earth's orbital plane with the Sun. The Earth tilts at an angle of approximately 23° with respect to the orbital plane. This tilt is partly due to the Earth's precession as it gyrates and rotates on its axis. It contributes to the divergence between a tropical year and a sidereal year and thus contributes to the precession of the equinoxes which marks the difference between tropical and sidereal celestial coordinate systems.

Second, a system of coordinates must normally specify an origin (0° point) for longitude. However, the zodiac system names twelve equal regions (called signs) and technically any sign can serve as the beginning or the end of the sphere's precession. However, the system further divides each sign into thirty degree units. One reason this system of coordinates was particularly useful in antiquity is that writing large numbers was difficult before the introduction of arabic numbers. The zodiac system of coordinates kept every number below ninety (the highest value for zodiac latitudes). Since the constellations along the ecliptic varied in size, defining 12 equal signs of 30° each did require an arbitrary assignment of boundaries roughly corresponding to the ecliptic constellations.

It is believed many of the classical astronomers specified zodiac signs using two bright stars near the ecliptic and opposite each other to serve as equatorial nodes or poles (not longitudinal poles): Aldebaran and Antares in the constellations Taurus and Scorpius respectively. These stars served rather well because not only were they on opposites sides of the ecliptic, but they also fell very near the center of their constellations and were therefore designated as Taurus 15 and Scorpius 15, meaning the middle 15° points within those signs. From these two stars then the remaining equatorial boundaries of the 12 signs of the zodiac follow (see Powell 2004).

Below are the Roman names of the signs of the zodiac (with the ecliptic longitudes of their first points[1]):

Wheel of the zodiac: 6th century mosaic pavement adapting Greek-Byzantine elements from a synagogue, Beit Alpha, Israel
Wheel of the zodiac: 6th century mosaic pavement adapting Greek-Byzantine elements from a synagogue, Beit Alpha, Israel
  1. Áries (0°)
  2. Taurus (30°)
  3. Gémini (60°)
  4. Cancer (90°)
  5. Leo (120°)
  6. Virgo (150°)
  7. Libra (180°)
  8. Scórpio (210°)
  9. Sagittárius (240°)
  10. Capricornus (270°)
  11. Aquárius (300°)
  12. Pisces (330°)

[edit] Sidereal versus tropical

The celestial coordinate system described above is what astronomers call a sidereal system of coordinates. In other words it defines the coordinates in relation to what ancient astronomers called the fixed stars (as opposed to the planets other than Earth which were called wandering stars). One could also call this a celestially centered system of coordinates. In time the ancient astronomers such as Hipparchus discovered these fixed stars were not fixed relative to the Earth's tropical year. Due, in part, to the precession of the Earth discussed above, the Earth completed its orbit after it has already completed the tropical cycle: for example: for the cycle of the Sun starting directly over the Tropic of Cancer then to the Tropic of Capricorn and return to the Tropic of Cancer again. Or as another example consider the motion of the Sun from one vernal equinox to the next; the Earth would complete such a cycle shortly before it completed an entire orbit around the Sun. (24 minutes and 20 seconds before). The difference is very subtle but as astronomers found archival records to compare their sightings with sightings of previous astronomers and the discrepancy thus became apparent. Some estimates of the rate of precession suggest that over a period of 27,000 tropical years, the Earth will have orbited the Sun only 26,999 times. It is remarkable that Hipparchus in the second century BC could recognize and document such a subtle process which is now known as the precession of the equinoxes.

Some modern astronomers began to mark the stars according to a tropical zodiac (or other tropical coordinate systems such as the equatorial coordinate system). This tropical zodiac system of coordinates designates the origin of the longitude of the celestial sphere as the first point in Aries. The term may be derived from the constellation of Aries, but this point instead marks the position of the Sun at the time of the vernal equinox for a specified epoch. Among other things, this epoch specifies the first point in Aries and establishes a unique fixed reference point for the tropical system of coordinates. The use of the phrase "first point in Aries" causes some confusion when considering sidereal versus tropical systems of coordinates. The first point in Aries in the sidereal system of coordinates, would be the first star in the Aries sign or perhaps the boundary of that sign. Whereas in tropical coordinates, the vernal equinox defines this point. During the time of Ptolemy's observations and cataloging of stars the sidereal and tropical longitudinal origins differed by a magnitude of perhaps less than 2°. The close convergence of these two systems of coordinates — combined with the varied interpretations of the phrase "first point in Aries" — makes it difficult to discern Ptolemy's longitudinal origin (see Peters and Knobel 1915).

More recently, in 2000 AD for example, the first point in Aries and the boundary of the sign of Aries — based on the specification of zodiac signs above — diverged by about 25°. In terms of the tropical system, this places the first point in Aries (in other words, the vernal equinox) in the Pisces constellation, near the projection of the NGC 7787 spiral galaxy. Other specifications of zodiac signs (whether sidereal or tropical) choosing different fixed points (in the celestial sphere for sidereal or in relation to Earth's seasonal cycle for tropical) would result in a different divergence either greater than or less than 25°. For example Cyril Fagan's sidereal zodiac is offset from the J2000.0 tropical zodiac by greater than 39° (as of 1977). This difference between the position of fixed stars in the tropical and sidereal coordinate systems is called the Ayanamsa.

[edit] Comparison to modern systems

Though perhaps as old as 5,000 years, the zodiac coordinate system boasts advantages over its more common modern counterparts. Since the coordinate system is celestially centered, it is insulated from the many eccentricities of Earth's motion: including its rotation, intricacies of Earth time, precession, nutation and its elliptical and perturbed orbit around our Sun. To use the zodiac coordinate system all one has to know is where to find one of the nodal constellations that include the fixed reference points for the system: Taurus and Scorpio. Since those constellations are located on opposite sides of the ecliptic along the zodiac, one should always be visible in the night sky. Also. these constellations are both located within the prominent band of cloud and dust of the Milky Way. From these constellations astronomers can orient themselves for locating any point in the coordinate system.

The modern, commonly used tropical systems require an observer to know the current mean sidereal time, the observer's terrestrial longitude and latitude, and the epoch the observer wishes to utilize, and to account for other peculiarities of Earth's motion. Of course, modern astronomical computers handle most of the tasks for observers, but it involves a large effort by many different astronomers behind the scenes.

In addition, much of the motion of the stars in modern tropical coordinate systems can be attributed wholly to these peculiarities of Earth's motion. Astronomers make the distinction between the proper motion of a star (typically relatively subtle), from the other motion that arises totally from the designation of a tropical rather than sidereal coordinate system. One example where this exhibits itself is in the constellation boundaries drawn up by the IAU. The neat constellation boundaries drawn in 1930 exhibit increasingly distorted boundary lines over time. This may seem like something of little consequence, but why bother drawing neat boundaries around constellations if they inherently become erratic in the dominant coordinate system in use then and now.

Finally, since the zodiac system uses the ecliptic rather than the terrestrial equator for its equatorial plane it is not susceptible to the drifting of stars across the celestial equator as in the commonly used equatorial coordinate system (right ascension, declination). In The Almagest Ptolemy criticizes Hipparchus’ use of an equatorial plane in some of Hipparchus’ variously specified coordinate systems for this very reason (Ptolemy 1998).

These advantages make the zodiac coordinate system a very efficient system of coordinates in terms of requiring very little human-hours of labor to use and maintain: issues particularly important to early astronomers, typically working in often in isolation from one another.

The key disadvantage of a zodiac system of coordinates will manifest as a problem, if the nodal stars that serve as its fixed reference points for the system exhibit significant proper motion so that within the system of coordinates every other star appears to move dramatically in unison. In other words, selecting a star that has eccentiricities compared to the other stars undermines the usefulness of the system of coordinates. For example the inadvertent selection of an asteroid or an entire galaxy outside our Milky Way would lead to this condition. The reason for this is that celestial objects outside our galaxy revolve around our galaxy in a period of about 220 million years, at least in terms of a frame of reference affixed to our Sun and its neighboring stars. The only other sidereal coordinate system in common use today (that shares many of the zodiac’s advantages) is the galactic coordinate system. In galactic coordinates, the plane of the Milky Way and its own axial center serve as the fixed referents. These are fairly logical reference points for a coordinate system, though of course they cannot be located with the naked eye.

Another disadvantage relates to the apparatus required for orienting one to the coordinate system. Using geocentric coordinates astronomers can easily calibrate their instruments to the fixed reference point. As long as astronomers can obtain an accurate compass reading, they can orient themselves to a geocentric coordinate system (such as ecliptic or equatorial coordinates). Using zodiac coordinates requires an astronomer to locate the correct star, whether Antares or Aldebaran, and the correct constellation- Scorpio or Taurus respectively- and make an accurate reading of the position of that star and accurately orient that star to the ecliptic. This may take more skill than a mere compass reading: especially for amateur astronomers.

[edit] Zodiac in astrology

The symbols used in Western astrology to represent the astrological signs
The symbols used in Western astrology to represent the astrological signs

Astrologers use astronomical observations of the movements of the night sky for divinatory purposes. The zodiac remains in use in modern astrology, though the issue of tropical versus sidereal coordinate systems is even more fundamental in (see sidereal versus tropical above, tropical astrology and sidereal astrology). At issue in the debate is whether the signs should be defined in terms of signs roughly aligned with the constellations of the same name (for sidereal astrologers) or whether the signs should be defined in terms of zones derived from nodal points defined by Earth's motion during a tropical year. The selection of two different astronomical coordinate systems implies the Sun moves through each sign at different times of the year, leading to different mapping of the signs to the days of the year for each of these systems.

Regardless of whether the tropical or sidereal definition of the zodiac is chosen, astrologers chart the positions of the Sun and planets in relation to the zodia

Astrology involves study of how planetary influences modify the field of human experience. Understanding how these planetary influences cause the "coming to be" and the "passing away" of all embodied things is the focus of all astrologers regardless of the individual's personal area of expertise. It transcends the limitations of culture, language, or century. The substance of the ongoing debate (5,000+ years of it!) between various schools and styles of astrology is centered on how best to understand these influences in order to make useful, accurate statements and predictions.

One consideration common to many schools and styles of astrological thinking involves the modularity, or the activity of matter. The alternating polarity of masculine and feminine creates the active/reactive pulse of the Zodiac, one result of which is the characteristic behavior of matter, or its modality.

Modal differences are defined as being moveable (centrifical - moving outwards), fixed/immovable (centripetal), and mutable (vacillating or double bodied). The origin of these classifications is in the natural flow of the seasons and has been in use since ancient times.

Noted European Medieval astrologer Avraham Ibn Eza (1092-1167 C.E) in his classic text "The Book of Reasons" summarized it thus:

"The Moveable (signs are so called) because the time changes when the Sun enters Aries and the air gets warm after it has been cold and humid. In Cancer, the humidity goes away and dryness comes instead. In Libra the heat turns to cold and in Capricorn the dryness turns to humidity.

Immovable Signs - Others are called immovable, and they are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, for they are the middle ones and the air stays in one element.

Double Bodied - The others are called double bodied, and they are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces, for they are at the end of one element and connected with the next one."

The movement into a new season, signaled by the solstices and the equinoxes is centrifical - the energy is moving outward.

The fixed signs are those in which the energy is stationary.

Mutable signs partake alternately of centrifical and stationary conditions, moving between the two.

As a planet moves through the signs of Zodiac, its characteristic activity is modified according to the nature of the sign.

As an example, let's consider Mercury. Mercury is the planet of the rational spirit in man (Ptolomy, Tetabiblos, 3 CE Greek Egyptian). Traditionally Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo (mutable signs) and is also one of the rulers of the Airy triplicity of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. The energy of Mercury in rulership is best expressed when it moves between a stationary/fixed condition and an outward moving/centrifical mode. When Mercury is positioned in a fixed sign such as Leo, the expression of the rational spirit will tend to be of fixed and firm resolution (stubborn). If it is found in a cardinal sign such as Capricorn - wavering and inconstant (growth oriented). Sound like a Mercury you know?

Famous Renaissance Astrologer William Lilly (17th c) describes Mercury in his famous work Christian Astrology (1647):

"Being wel dignified, he (Mercury) represents a man of subtil and politick brain, intellect, and cogitation; an excellent disputant or logician, arguing with learning and discretion, using much eloquence, in his speech, a searcher into all kinds of Mysteries and Learning, sharp and witty, .curious in the search of occult knowledge, if he turn to Merchant, no man exceeds him a way of Trade or invention of new wayes whereby to obtain wealth."

The planet Mercury favors a zodiacal home which simultaneously facilitates intellectual growth (mutable Air) and provides constancy (mutable Earth). Planetary rulership and dignity describes the home turf of each planet, the place where each one can find a natural and fulfilling expression of itself. This is talking about what the PLANET wants, not necessarily what we find enjoyable or convenient.

The concept of modality also finds expression in modern psychological astrology. Psychological astrologers seek to uncover the ways that the modality of a client's nativity will tend to produce characteristic behavior that acts, reacts or holds its ground under certain kinds of pressures or stimuli. Using this type of evaluation they work with the client to uncover otherwise hidden tendencies and problem-causing behaviors, thus providing useful insights for personal growth and transformation.

This type of analysis is also useful in relationship astrology and compatibility analysis. When two people conflict in a relationship, differences in the modality as well as the elemental nature of planetary placement can be the culprit. He says "she can be intellectually astute at times . BUT awfully stubborn and narrow minded." She says "He changes his mind all the time, I never know where he stands."

Use the following to determine the modality of each planet and of the chart as a unit:

Cardinal (moving outwards/centrifical)
Fixed (stationary/ immovable)
Mutable (vacillating)
Sign of the Zodiac
Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius
Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces
Aries: Cardinal fire
Leo: Fixed Fire
Sagittarius: Mutable fire
Libra: Cardinal Air
Aquarius: Fixed Air
Gemini: Mutable Air
Cancer: Cardinal water
Scorpio: Fixed water
Pisces : Mutable water
Capricorn: Cardinal earth
Taurus: Fixed earth
Virgo: Mutable earth

Planets Rulership(traditional) Exaltation Participating Triplicity Ruler
Capricorn, Aquarius
Sagittarius, Pisces
Aries, Scorpio
Taurus, Libra
Gemini, Virgo
Fire and Air
Fire and Air
Water and Earth
Water and Earth
Water and Earth

cal signs. The horoscope is used to associate properties of a sign with the properties of planets positioned in that sign. The planet is said to influence events on Earth but the way in which it does this is modified by the influence of the sign in which it is positioned



The 3rd sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The modern glyph for Gemini II is believed to be a drawing of the human twin holding hands with the immortal twin (Castor and Pollux). Some see the significance of the glyph as relating to the square area inside the rectilinear structure, for the rule of Gemini over the human lungs points to the permanent rythmic relationship which the human being holds to the outer world; constantly taking in it's air and oxygen, so that the inner becomes the outer, and the outer the inner.


The esoteric astrologers place great emphasis on the numerical relationships of 72, which may be discerned by this exchange.

Gemini is of the Air element and of Mutable quality; the influence being mental, intellectual and versatile~ the Geminian exhibits a strong need to relate to others and is at worst histrionic.
The airy nature of this sign is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Versatile, idealistic, communicative, imitative, inventive, alert, inquizitive~ in a word, all the associated qualities of an air type expressing itself in a view to establishing communication with the world..
In excess, the Geminian nature may well be described in terms which express the tendancy to superficiality of all air types, the keywords being: Restless, impatient, unstable, fickle, lacking in concentration, inconsistant and diffused.


This type tends to remain (at worst) childish and immature, and (at best) retains it's youthful mentality and physical appearence.
Gemini is ruled by the planet Mercury and offers no traditional Dignity, although some mark Gemini as the Exhaltation of the Dragon's head.




The 4th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The modern glyph for Cancer has been variously explained. One description of the glyph is that it could be seen as 'two spermatozoa twisted together', intended to signify both male and female seed: However, the glyph is relatively modern, and has a different form in Medieval astrology.
The image for Cancer is nowadays a crab, as in the Medieval form, yet in early astrology, the sign and constellation was presented more frequently in the image of a crayfish.


Cancer is of the Water element and of Cardinal quality; the influence being: Emotional, sensitive, changeable, gregarious and cautious.
The nature of Cancer as it manifests in human beings is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Romantic, shrewd, domesticated, psychic, caring, passive, strong in feelings and so on~ in a word, all the associated qualities of a sensitive water type seeking emotional unfoldment through experiencing the material realm.
In excess, the Cancerian nature may well be described in terms which express it's underlying fear of coming out of it's crab-like shell: It is timid, self absorbed, paranoid, opinionated, aquisitive, driven by a fear of emotional vulnerability, moody, tending to live in the past and so on. Like other water signs, it may at times wish to withdraw completely from the physical world.
Cancer is ruled by the Moon, marks the exhaltation of Jupiter and the Fall of Mars. 

The powerful fixed stars associated with Cancer, which make it's influence especially remarkable in the Zodiac series are: Alhena, Canopus, Castor, Dirah, Pollux, Procyon, Propus, Sirius, Tejat and Wasat.

The image of the crab, which is pre-Grecian, is said to be that of the crab elevated to the firmament by Juno for attacking the heel of her enemy Hercules.
Of particular interest to astrologers are the large number of powerful fixed stars in this constellation, and in the neighbouring Gemini.     




The 5th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The modern glyph for Leo is believed to be a corruption of the initial Greek term for the asterism; however, the present form of the glyph appears to derive from a late Medieval form of which the significance remains hidden, even though many explainations have been given by various astrologers. 

Leo is of the Fire element and of Fixed quality; the influence being: Creative, self-reliant, enthusiastic, gregarious, warm hearted and positive.
As with all Fire types, there is a strong element of selfishness, but the Leonine is rarely insensitive to the needs of others.
The warm and creative outlook of Leo is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Self-expressive, dignified, inspirational, exuberant, magnanimous, flamboyant (sometimes theatrical), hospitable and alturistic~ in a word, all the associated qualities of a fire nature expressing itself without fear.
In excess, the Leonine nature may well be described in terms which express it's underlying selfishness, the keywords being: Vain, demanding, predatory, imperious, dogmatic, self-satisfied, ostentatious and militant.
Leo is ruled by the Sun, and the sign marks the detriment of Saturn- and some believe the fall of Mercury.


Even from early times, the asterism was named Lion, and it's image was that of a lion. In classical times, it was associated with the Nemean lion of the Hercules cycle. Ptolemy describes the influence of this constellation in terms of the smaller asterisms of which the image is composed, but it is said to convey the Leonone virtues of nobility and courage. Major fixed stars in this constellation include: Adhafera, Denebola, Regulus and Zosma.




The 7th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The glyph for Virgo is believed to represent a vestigial drawing of the female genitalia and also of the severed serpent from which the sigils for Scorpio and Virgo were evolved, and the fact that the Egyptian Demotic scripts appear to carry such an association.
The link with the head of a serpent postulated in this theory is interesting, for Virgo is indeed a sign deeply commited to the intellectual proscess. The glyph has also been derived from the merged letters of MV (Maria Virgo) as part of the important Catholic symbolism associated with the sign and constellation. 

Virgo is of the Earth element and of Mutable quality; the influence being: Descriminative, quiet, exacting, nervous, shrewd and methodical.

The nature of Virgo as it manifests in human beings is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Dignified, intelligent, tidy, nervous (though often good under pressure), perfectionist, graceful, neat, mentally alert, orderly, gentle~ in a word, all the associated qualities of an earth type expressing itself in the mental realm.
In excess, the Virgoan nature may well be described in terms which express it's underlying critical nature, the keywords being: Carping, hypercritical, shrewish, fussy, and back-biting.
Virgo says "I want to clarify" more loudly than others tend to do, though she may do this to be helpful, or to put others down depending on which side of the nature is being called into play. Libra is ruled by the planet Mercury, and marks the Fall of Venus.

Virtually all the ancient and modern traditions visualize the image of Virgo as a maiden; and a whole string of feminine names have been applied to her, such as Persephone or Proserpina~ but in esscence, she has been regarded as the archetypal woman, the Kore of the Greeks, the Puella of the Romans, and in Hindu asterisms as Kanya (maiden): From very early Christian times she has been Virgin or Virgin Mary, and in Egyptian times, Isis.



Some of the more important varient names have revolved aroundthe identification ofthe lucida in the asterism, the fixed star Spica usually visualized as set in the Virgin's left hand or shoulder, as a child or as a sheaf of corn. The Greek name means 'ear of corn'; and this was sometimes adapted by the Christians to the distaff which properly belonged to a heretical gnostic tradition; later Christians visualized the star as an image of the child in the arms of the Virgin Mary.
The link between the star and the corn was sufficient to establish the entire asterism as the corn goddess Demeter, from which we have Arista and Astrisa Puella, the maiden of the wheatfield. But it was mainly in the image of the celestial mother that Virgo was visualized~ called even Astrea after the starry daughter of Themis: Several of the Medieval images of the Virgin Mary depict her dress decorated with stars (even with ears of corn) and such were doubtless derived from the pre-Christian stellar goddess.
Such images were also linked with the asterism as the Egyptian Isis and the Babylonian Ishtar
The only other fixed star of particular astrological significance is Zavi-Java.



The 7th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The glyph for Libra is believed to represent a vestigial drawing of a pair of scales, with which the sign and constellation has been associated with from the very earlist of times; the Babylonian name for the asterism being Zibanitu (scales). However, one of the more frequently used of the Egyptian hieroglyphs for the sign shows that the glyph is derived from a picture of the sun setting over the earth; an appropriate image for a sign which is now associated with the descendant; that symbolic place of sunset.


Libra is of the air triplicity and of Cardinal quality; the influence being harmonious, elegant, orderly, comparitive, peaceful, changeable and helpful.
The nature of Libra as it manifests in human beings is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Gentle, artistic, sensitive, helpful, peaceful, spiritualized, romantic, delicate, perceptive, affectionate~ in a word, all the associated qualities of an air type expressing itself with a delicate awareness of others.
In excess, the Libran nature may well be described in terms which express an impractical nature, as well as a lazy streak; the keywords being: untidy, indulgent, easily persuaded, fickle, flirtatious, 'lost in the clouds', unable to cope, and so on.
The Libran says "I want to be carried" more often than others do, and she may do this gently or imperiously, depending on which side of the nature is being called into activity. Libra is ruled by the planet Venus, marks the Exhaltation of Saturn and the Fall of Pluto.


The constellation of Libra covers an arc of just under 21', and it would appear that at one time it was considered to be merely an extension of the adjacent Scorpius of which it was the chelae (claws).
In occult tradition, the original significance of this constellation was intimately connected with the two signs Scorpio and Virgo; but it is clear that the asterism was defined over 3,000 years ago: It was the Babylonian Zibanitu (scales), and inevitably it was later identified with Astraea, the holder of the balence which weighs the deeds of men; though this is, of course linked with Virgo.
It is perhaps no accident that the image for Libra in the Medieval zodiac is distinguished from that of Virgo merely by the attributes of the scales. Early names which appear in Medieval manuscripts are Zichos, and the Latin Jugum (yoke or beam).
The fixed stars in the asterism which have importance in the astrological tradition are North Scale and South Scale; originally the North Claw and the South Claw respectively.




Scorpio is the name given to the 8th sign of the zodiac, and sometimes to the zodiacal constellation, Scorpius.
The glyph for Scorpio is believed to be a vestigial drawing of the male genitalia, over which the sign has rule. However, esoteric astrologers claim that the glyph is really a vestigial drawing of the severed half-tail of a serpent, linking the glyph with the Biblical story of the Fall of Man (the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden). Scorpio is the only zodiacal sign to have been accorded two quite different images~ that of a scorpion and that of an eagle. The former is a symbol of the unregenerative scorpionic urge, wjile the latter symbolizes the regenerative nature.


Scorpio is of the water element and of fixed quality; the influence being majestic, determined, secretive, shrewd dignified, self-confident, masterful, sensitive and critical.
The nature of Scorpio as it manifests in human beings is expressed in the keywords: Regenerative, inspirational, tenacious, forceful, magnetic, emotional, penetrating, competetive, extremist, strong in desire~ in a word, all those qualities which may be associated with a water type expressing itself powerfully.
In excess, the Scorpionic nature may be described in terms which express it's underlying cruelty, sense of violence and instinct for crime (esoterically, the desire to have something for nothing): rebellious, degenerative, suspicious, sarcastic, cruel, selfish, violent, indulgent and domineering.

The Scorpio tends to say, "I wish to change" more insistently than the majority; and he may do this creatively, in a healing manner, or destructively, in a criminal manner, depending on which side of his nature is being developed.
In modern astrological systems, Scorpio is usually said to be ruled by the planet Pluto, though in it's traditional form it was accorded the rule of Negative Mars.
It marks the Exhaltation of Uranus, and the Fall of the Moon.


The constellation Scorpius, in antiquity, was the largest zodiacal asterism, incorporating in it's claws (Greek 'Chelae') what is now our seperate asterism of Libra. However, the tradition is confusing, for even in antiquity the constellation was double; and Libra is found as a seperate figure in Babylonian and Egyptian star maps.
The name, properly Scorpius, but sometimes Scorpio (hence the two genitive Latin forms, Scorpii and Scorpionis, the latter of which favored in Medieval astrology) was used in Roman times, the former being conveniently adopted to distinguish nominally between sign and constellation.
The asterism was also identified with the serpent~ most especially with the basilisk.
The astrologers call it Al Akrab (the scorpion), from which we have many Medieval derivations such as Alacrab, Alatrap, Hacrab and so on. The Akkadians call it Girtab (perhaps 'the stinger', though the meaning is conjectural). In popular constellation mythology, the asterism is said to represent the scorpion which killed Orion, but it appears to have been a scorpion long before the Grecian mythology was developed.
Ptolemy describes the stars in the front of Scorpius as carrying the influence of Mars, if slightly Saturnine~ those in body are said to be Mars mingled with a little Jupiter, an those in the sting are said to be Mars conjunct Mercury. However, the reputations attached to the fixed stars in tha asterism are generally far from pleasan, and appear to emphasize the Martian nature~ Aculeus, Acumen, Antares, Graffias, Dschubba, Shaula and Lesath.



Ophiuchus was according to Greek mythology a man called Asclepius. He was the son of Apollo and Coronis, the daughter of King Phlegyas of the Lapiths. He was given the power by the goddess Athena to ressurect the dead including the more famous Orion, the hunter. He was killed by a bolt of lightning from Zeus who had been requested to do so by Hades. As Asclepius was resurrecting, Hades was worried that the Underworld was not getting as many dead as he should be. He was turned into a constellation to appease Apollo who had killed the three cyclop beings. The Cyclops, mystical one eyed beings built Zeus's thunderbolts.

Ophiuchus is an Ancient Greek constellation. The Serpent Bearer is one of the original Ptolemy constellations, appearing in Al Magest Star Catalogue [c 130 - 170 AD]. He also appears on the Farnese Globe, a Roman copy of a circa 2nd century BC depiction of Atlas holding the Celestial Sphere above his head. So why isn't Ophiuchus a member of the standard astrological zodiac - the Tropical Zodiac?

Good question! Ophiuchus is a Sun sign. The Moon and planets all are seen against the stars of Ophiuchus. Unfortunately, the answer to the question is that Ophiuchus isn't in the Tropical Zodiac not because there is something wrong with Ophiuchus but because there is something wrong with the Tropical Zodiac.  The Tropical Zodiac  is an inaccurate oversimplification of the heavens dating from a time when we did not have telescopes or computers.


 The problem of Ophiuchus is very old: at least nineteen hundred years old, if not more. It dates back to at least the time of Claudius Ptolemy, the Classical father of astrology [c 130 - 170 AD].

Ptolemy produced two great works, Al Magest, which charted the heavens, and Tetrabiblos, the seminal work of astrology - a compendium of essentially all the astrological knowledge of the Ancient Greeks. Al Magest contains the earliest Star Catalogue that we still possess.

In Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy treats Ophiuchus as a non-zodiac constellation; he follows the simple, inherited tradition of the twelve part, equal-sign zodiac. However, in Al Magest, Ptolemy actually charts Ophiuchus in the heavens. He looks at the reality of the stars above. He catalogues 29 stars in the constellation. 24 of these he measures to have a latitude above the Ecliptic. But 5 of these he observes have a latitude below the Ecliptic. In other words the figure of Ophiuchus crosses the Ecliptic [the path of the Sun] making it by definition a Sun Sign.




The 9th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The glyph for Sagittarius is believed to represent the arrow of desire being shot from a vestigial bow, but many occultists maintain that it actually consists of a fourfold cross, with an arrow lifting this symbol of materiality into the upper spiritual realms~ an excellent symbol for the spiritualizing and expansive nature of the sign. 
Sagittarius is of the fire triplicity and of Mutable quality; the influence being enterprizing, open, honest, dignified, optimistic and independant.
The nature of Sagittarius as it manifests in the microcosm is expressed in the many keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: enthusiastic, philosophic, idealistic, generous, open-minded, loyal, magnanimous, honest, frank, restless~ in a word, all the associated qualities of fire working aspirationally.
In excess or under pressure, the Sagittarian tends to be prodigal, sporty, indolent, self-indulgent, conceited, dogmatic, and subject to 'pointless' wanderings.
Sagittarius tends to say, "I act with dignity" more insistently than others, and he may do this creatively, and to the benefit of others as a natural part of his being, or he may do it merely to be seen acting in such a way, in a prodigal display of prowess or energy.
Sagittarius is ruled by the planet Jupiter.


The zodiacal constellation of Sagittarius has been commonly referred to as the Archer in many languages including ancient Greek, and with many varients in Latin (including Arquitenens and Arcitenens the bow holder) .
Related terms refer to the half-human, half-animal nature of the image, which lies at the base of astrological lore relating to the sign: Semivir (half-man) and even Minotaurs have been used, while all too frequently the constellation is confused in litereature with Centaurus.
The Akkadian seems to have been Ban, or more properly Mul-ban (the star of the bow), and the Denderah zodiac gives the archer with the face of a lion. In popular explanations of mythology, the asterism is linked with the centaur, Chiron, killed by the dropping of one of the poisoned arrows of Hercules on his foot.
The fixed stars with this asterism which are regarded as being of astrological import are Arkab, Ascella, Manubrium, Pelagus, Polis and Terebellum.




The 10th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The modern glyph for Capricorn is believed to be a drawing of the horns of a goat, with which the modern image is associated. However, Capricorn was never properly a goat, but a goat- fish as the Greek Aigokeros implied: The Babylonian prototype for the image was that of a goat with a curled fish tail, to which the modern glyph clearly still refers. 

Capricorn is of the earth triplicity and of Cardinal quality; the influence being practical, industrious, prudent, preserving, diplomatic, cautious, methodical and ambitious. The nature of Capricorn as it manifests in humans is expressed in the main keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: dependable, concentrative, trustworthy, efficient, just, industrious, honest, undemonstrative, conservative, responsive, patient, systematic~ in a word, all the associated qualities of an earth type working with integrity to acheive some particular aim.
In excess or under pressure, the Capricornian nature may be described in terms which express it's underlying need for security: Secretive, fearful, miserly, unsympsthetic rigid, suspicious, selfish, materialistic, brooding and egotistical. 
Like other earth signs, it is subject at times to deep melancholia.
Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn, marks the Exhaltation of Mars and the fall of Jupiter. In addition to the terms above, Capricorn is traditionally called Cardinal, Changeable, Cold, Crooked, Domestic, Earthy, Egotistical, Feminine, Hoarse, Hurtful, Melancholic, Negative, Nocturnal, Obeying, Southern, Tropical, Unfortunate, Violent and Wintery.

The Greek myth connected with the naming of this asterism tells that Pan, pursued by Typhon, escaped by leaping into the Nile: his upper body turned into a goat; the lower part into a fish, and in this guise, he was taken to heaven by Jupiter~ however, the name is pre-Grecian.
The most powerful fixed stars in Capricornus to play a part in astrology are: Algedi, Armus, Castra, Dabith, Dorsum and Nashira.





The 11th sign of the zodiac. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location nor extent with the constellation of the same name. The modern glyph for Aquarius is believed to represent the flow of water, especially that of the Nile, and this sign (it is an air sign) has from the earliest daysof astrology been associated with water: on a symbolic level, however, the stream of knowledgewhich is contained in the urn of the Aquarian image is said to represent spiritual knowledge, the Celestial waters of the ancients. Some astrologers prefer to interpret the glyph as representative of the invisible waves of electricity (in occult terms the 'Fohat').


Aquarius is of the air triplicity and of fixed quality; the influence being erratic, refined, artistic, tenacious, perverse, intuitive, independant and original. The nature of Aquarius as it manifests in humans is expressed in the main keywords which have been attached to it by modern astrologers: Friendly, humanitarian, progressive, persistant, inventive, creative, tolerant, fond of science and literature, discreet and optimistic~ in a word, all the associated qualities of an air type working with a view to establish freedom for the self and others.
In excess or in certain situations, the Aquarian tends to be something of a crank, an opportunist, a rebel, with both an unsympathetic and irresponsible attitude to life.
Aquarius speaks of 'freedom' more insistently than others, usually without being able to explain fully what is meant by the word~ often he or she will attempt to destroy the status quo rather than work at establishing something beneficial for the future. 
According to modern astrology, Aquarius is ruled by the planet Uranus, though before this planet was 'discovered' by William Herschel in 1781, the sign was ruled by Saturn.
Mercury is exhalted in Aquarius while the sun is in detriment in this sign.
In addition to the terms above, the various traditional classifications present Aquarius as Diurnal, Fixed, Fortunate, Warm, Fruitful, Human, Masculine, Mental, Moist, Nervous, Obeying, Rational, Strong, Sweet, Sweet, Vital and Whole...

The image associated with the constellation was even in Babylonian times that of a man pouring water from an urn, and thus understandably in Greek astrology was called Hydroxus (water pourer). The numerous names given to this constellation by astrologers of different eras and places generally alude to the idea of water, or to the image of a water pot. The fixed stars within the asterism which are of importance to astrologers are the 'twin' stars, Sadalmelik and Sadalsuud




The last of the 12 signs of the zodiac, and one of the constellations. It corresponds as a zodiacal sign neither in location or extent with the constellation of the sme name.
The modern glyph is believed to represent two fishes united by the so called 'silver cord' which joins together their mouthes in the constellation image. In the image, the fish usually face oppositte directions to symbolize the altercation between spirit and soul in the human being. 


Pisces is of the water element and of Mutable quality; the influence being pre eminently emotional, intuitive and insecure. There is a strong tendancy to withdrawl toward artistic expression, and the Piscean type tends to be hypersensitive to the emotional needs of others. The sensitive nature of Pisces is expressed in the many keywords attached to the sign by modern astrologers: Sympathetic, imaginative, poetic, easy going, self indulgent, sentimental, kindly and inconstant.

In excess or under pressure, the piscean nature expresses itself in terms relating to it's underlying insecurity and lack of drive, the keywords being: lazy, restless, unstable, chaotic, hypochondriac, fickle, lacking in self confidence. Pisces is ruled by the modern planet Neptune in most modern astrological systems, though in traditional astrology it was ruled by the beneficent and expansive Jupiter: The sign marks the Exhaltation of venus and the Detriment of Mercury...


Constellation of fishes, located approx. 15' Pisces ~ 26' Aries, the extent of the asterism being set out according to the limits recognized by the modern Zodiac. The image of the two fishes, joined by a connecting band, figures in the Denderah Zodiac of Egypt. It was named both Fish and Fishes by the Greeks, though the Romans emphasized the duality with their Pisces Gemellus. To the Babylonian astrologers Nunu was also a pair of fishes, and some even more ancient remains give it as Nuni (fishes) as well as Zib, perhaps meaning 'boundary' and pointing to it's marking the 'end' of the zodiacal cycle. The fish that symbolized Christ was, from the early Christian times linked with Pisces, yet even earlier, it had been an esoteric symbol, linked with both the Greek 'Fish Goddess' Atargatis, and with the Syrian Dagon, a fish headed man (said to be the image of the celestial man ~ the seas and the spiritual realm being regarded as symbolic equivalents). This probably explains why the constellation should have been under the tutleage (guardianship) of Poseidon.

Ptolemy (C2nd CE Greek astronomer whose extensive catalogues of star positions and magnitudes and ideas were referred to and utilized greatly in Medieval Europe) breaks down the influence of the constellation into seperate asterisms, with the result that the constellation is of variable influence, and may be determined only by reference to the fixed star tradition. The 'lucida' is the so called 'knot' (the nodus) in the thread, the Linon of the Greeks , the Nodus Piscium of thr Romans. It is the alpha of Pisces, often called Al Rescha from the arabian meaning 'the cord'. In some esoteric texts, the binding cord is sometimes called the Silver Cord, and is said to be linked with the subtle and almost invisible connection which holds it in union with the spirit and soul of incarnate man...