The Zodiac and the names for the various constellations and the systematic practice of astrology date from the early Babylonian period, and quite possibly originated in Sumerian culture. Today, it is of primary importance in “casting” an astrology chart. Babylonian astronomers at some point during the early 1st millennium BC divided the Sun’s path into twelve equal zones of longitude to create the first known celestial coordinate system. The reported locations of the constellations in this region in the Bronze Age (2700 BC), suggests an even earlier establishment of the constellations. The concept of the zodiac spread from Babylonia to Greece and from there to Egypt, and to India where it is described in the Rigveda – the oldest book in the world. The Dendera zodiac, a relief dating to 50 BC, is the first known depiction of the classical zodiac of twelve signs.
Babylonia or Chaldea in the Hellenistic world came to be so identified with astrology that “Chaldean wisdom” became among Greeks and Romans the synonym of divination through the planets and stars. The Hindu zodiac is a direct loan of the Greek system, adopted during the period of intense Indo-Greek cultural contact during the Seleucid period (2nd to 1st centuries BC). The Zodiac (Greek zoon: animal) is an imaginary belt in the heavens extending approximately 8 degrees on either side of the Sun’s apparent path around the Earth (the Ecliptic), that includes the apparent paths of the Moon and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. There is a zodiac for western astrology, a different one for Vedic astrology, and a very different one for Chinese astrology.
The Zodiac itself is a mathematical concept, which does not appear to be in use prior to 400 BC. It provides a frame of reference in which the positions of the Sun, Moon, and the Planets could be expressed by their angular distance from the beginning of the signs in which they were located.
The Zodiac is the region of the sky close to the circle on which our orbiting solar system intersects the celestial sphere. It includes the apparent path of the sun across the sky “The Ecliptic”, and the paths of the planets which move in a zone just above and below this. A bright object lying outside of the ecliptic cannot be a planet. Zodiac signs comprise a certain set of constellations. In some cases, parts of constellations are made up of stars that are close together in space, but this is rare. Most stars are millions of light years apart.
“All The Great Constellations Live Very Long Since Stars Can’t Alter Physics.” (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces)
In western astrology the zodiac contains the paths of the Sun, Moon (Luminaries), and planets and is divided into twelve equal parts of 30° each, called “signs”, each named for a constellation. At the center of this band is the plane of the Ecliptic. The width of the zodiac extends about 8º above and below the ecliptic. In western tropical astrology, the zodiac year begins at the point where the ecliptic intersects with the earth’s equatorial plane at the northern vernal equinox. This is when the Sun crosses the equator and moves into the northern hemisphere. The theoretical beginning of Aries is the moment of vernal equinox, and all other dates shift accordingly. In this system of astrology, the Sun enters the astrological zodiacal sign of Aries about March 20, but due to “Precession” will not cross into the astronomical constellation of Aries until nearly a month later. This means that the tropical sign of Aries currently lies somewhere within the constellation Pisces.
Because of precession, the zodiac is gradually drifting apart at an angular velocity of about 1.4 degrees per century, which moves the equinox continually to earlier dates: it will fall on 18 March for the first time in AD 4092. In western tropical astrology, the signs and the names of the constellations are not the same thing. Unlike the zodiac signs in western astrology, which are all thirty degrees in length, the astronomical constellations vary widely in size. Because the actual constellations by their varying forms and shapes take up different widths of the ecliptic, it is necessary to distinguish the constellations from zodiacal signs associated with them. For example, Virgo takes up five times as much ecliptic longitude as Scorpio. The zodiacal signs are abstracted from the actual constellations, and designed to represent one twelfth of the full circle each, or the longitude traversed by the Sun in a month.
As a mapping exercise to make the work of astronomers more efficient, the boundaries of all the constellations in the sky were set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1930. The locations and sizes of the actual constellations are not therefore in any sense equivalent to the zodiac signs. Along with the familiar, twelve original constellations, the boundaries of a thirteenth constellation, Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer), situated between Scorpio and Sagittarius, were set by astronomers within the bounds of the zodiac. In Sidereal (Vedic) astrology the zodiacal signs are aligned to their correct stellar backgrounds, starting with the alignment of the Sun with a distant star in Aries. The sidereal constellations occupy varying degrees of space along the ecliptic. The zodiacal signs of “Tropical” (Western) astrology each take up exactly 30°.
The dates that the sun enters a sign in the astrological systems can vary by as much as 2 days, from year to year, depending on leap years, and the precession of the Earth’s orbit. No longer needed or used as a prehistoric seasonal survival guide, the “Little Zoo” is fundamental to charting horoscopes. The familiar “star sign”, or more precisely the “sun sign”, under which a person is born refers to the position of the sun in the signs on the tropical ecliptic at the time of his or her birth. A person may be born on June 5th will have the Sun near the center of the sign of Gemini. Any planets observed near the center of Gemini, would be in “conjunction” with the sun, and said to have a particularly strong effect on the destiny and personality of the person.
At the same time, other planets are in other signs of the zodiac, and their effects would be felt on the portions of a person’s life “ruled” by that sign. Significance is associated to the angular positions of planets and signs relative to each other at the moment of a birth or other significant event. The concept of the zodiac was originated by the Babylonians certainly before 2000 BC as a method of marking time. The zodiac worked as a calendar. It was divided into twelve parts as suggested by the appearance of 12 moons in a year. It’s important to make a distinction between constellations and signs. Signs are sections of the sky, each 30° wide, corresponding with particular periods of time of the year, that don’t necessarily correspond with the constellations of the same name.
The sign of Aries marks the beginning of the year at the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox. The retreating crab in Cancer represents the retreat of the Sun from its farthest northern point at the time of the summer solstice. Leo, the symbol of fire, represents summer heat. The scales of Libra signify the balance between day and night at the autumnal equinox. The decline of the sun’s power is represented in Scorpio by the scorpion, the symbol of darkness. The water-bearer, Aquarius, represented the rainy season which, in Egypt, meant the yearly flooding of the Nile. The fishes of Pisces, symbolized the return of life and the resumption of agriculture.
Western Tropical astrology uses the signs fixed to the seasons, but Hindu (Vedic) astrologers maintained a tradition of actual sky observation and have continually adjusted their zodiac to approximately align with the stars and so have abandoned the link between the zodiac and the calendar. Some twentieth century western astrologers have begun to realign their work to the actual stars, and have also abandoned the link with the calendar. For the Southern hemisphere and for people in this region the symbolism of the signs is at odds with their actual experience of the seasons. The Babylonian calendar as it stood in the 7th century BCE assigns each month a constellation, beginning with the position of the Sun at vernal equinox, which at the time was the Aries constellation (“Age of Aries”), for which reason the first astrological sign is still called “Aries”. The vernal equinox has long since moved away from the Aries constellation.
The arrangement of the twelve tribes of Israel around the Tabernacle corresponded to the order of the Zodiac; and four of the tribes represented the middle signs: the Lion of Judah, Reuben the Man, Ephraim the Bull and Dan the Eagle. The blessings of Jacob to his sons has been suggested as attributing characteristics of a sign of the zodiac to each tribe. The faces of the cherubim, in both Ezekiel and Revelation, resemble the middle signs of the four quarters of the Zodiac: the Lion is Leo; the Bull is Taurus; the Man is Aquarius; and the Eagle is Scorpio.
In Hindu astrology, the individual signs are called ‘rashi”. The Sanskrit names of the signs are direct translations of the Greek names (dhanus meaning “bow” rather than “archer”, and kumbha meaning “water-pitcher” rather than “water-carrier”). Under the Greeks, the planets, Houses, and signs of the zodiac were rationalized and their function set down in a way that has changed little to the present day. The High Middle Ages saw a revival of Greco-Roman magic, first in Kabbalism and later continued in Renaissance magic. This included magical uses of the zodiac.
On clear, dark nights, you should be able to see a dim, narrow band stretching across the heavens. You are looking edgewise at our galaxy, the “Milky Way”. Like the solar system, our galaxy is flat, like a pancake, so when you look down the edge, you are looking through its densest parts. The center of the Milky Way is toward the constellation Sagittarius. Comets are part of the solar system. However, they are the non-conformists; unlike other members, they are rarely found on the solar system plane. That means they could be seen anywhere in the sky, not just in the zodiac. Comets that are bright enough to be seen by the unaided eye, however are very rare, averaging about one a decade or so.
The signs of the zodiac are associated with certain colors.
- Aries March 21 – April 20 Red
- Taurus April 21 – May 21 Green
- Gemini May 22 – June 21 Yellow
- Cancer June 22 – July 22 White/Silver
- Leo July 23-August 21 Gold
- Virgo August 22 – September 23 Blue/White
- Libra September 24 – October 23 Blue/Pink
- Scorpio October 24 – November 22 Black/Red
- Sagittarius November 23 – December 22 Purple/Magenta
- Capricorn December 23 – January 20 Blue/Green/Black
- Aquarius January 21 – February 19 Blue
- Pisces February 20 – March 20 Turquoise/Purple/Green
The Planets in the Zodiac:
- Mercury represents the part of you that receives and processes all incoming perceptions; your senses themselves. Mercury represents thinking and speaking; learning; communication; and your brain and nervous system.
- Venus represents the part of you that seeks love, harmony, and appreciation of beauty. It represents your aesthetic values; what you cherish; your taste in colors, shape and sound (what you love); and in relationships (who you love).
- Mars represents the process of focusing the power of your will into action. Initiative, Courage, Ambition and Physical energy are all parts of this process. Mars gives you survival energy.
- Jupiter represents Faith; faith in life itself. It is the process of expanding and overflowing; Joy, Opportunity, Love of freedom, Generosity.
- Saturn represents physical structure, like bones and teeth. It is also associated with society’s structures, like government, Big Business, and the people associated with them.
- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto represent creative, transpersonal levels of awareness beyond the control and limitations of normal consciousness. You must be open to a broadened consciousness to understand and realize the transforming possibilities of these Planets.
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