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A Few Frequently Asked Questions

What is Astrology?

The History of Astrology

Astrology: An Ancient Wisdom

About the Zodiac

Astrology: About The Zodiac

Before we talk about the zodiac, it is necessary for you to know about something called the "ecliptic ", a very important imaginary line used by stargazers to map the heavens. We know that the Earth moves around the sun, but from our perspective, the earth seems to be stationary with the sun revolving around it instead of the other way around. If we could see the stars in the daylight (when we can also see the sun), over the course of a year, the sun would seem to slowly move across the sky in a complete circle, passing through various constellations as it did so. This apparent path or line that the sun seems to follow is called the ecliptic. It is an imaginary line because we know, of course, that the sun does not move at all (in relationship to us) - it’s really the earth that is moving. Technically, the ecliptic represents the outward extension or projection of the plane of the Earth's orbit. Most sky charts plot the position of the ecliptic.

The planes of the orbits of the moon and the other planets of our solar system are fairly similar to that of the Earth's, so our solar system can be seen as quite flat, or disc-like. The sun, the moon and the planets of our solar system (when they’re visible from Earth), are to be found quite close to the ecliptic - not exactly on it, but within nine degrees of it, forming a narrow band across the sky with the ecliptic running exactly along the middle. This is what we call the Zodiac.

Sometimes the moon’s orbit crosses the ecliptic. If it crosses in front of the Sun, it blocks out the Sun’s light by causing a solar eclipse. If the moon falls into the Earth’s shadow when it crosses over the ecliptic, it will result in a lunar eclipse. Eclipses don’t happen every time the moon crosses the ecliptic. Most often, it will appear to pass above or below the Sun or miss the Earth’s shadow completely. An eclipse only occurs only when all three, the Sun, the Earth and the moon are lined up with each other on the plane of the ecliptic. That’s why we call it the "ecliptic"!

The ecliptic runs through a backdrop of constellations, among which we find the familiar signs of the zodiac - Aries, Taurus etc. Now the Sun’s path is quite constant, and it can be found at pretty much the same spot each year at any given date. Ancient astrologers noticed that there were twelve particular constellations along the zodiac, which could be used to divide the year into twelve 30° zones as the sun passed through them. The names of these twelve constellations are, of course, the names of our Signs of the Zodiac - Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer Leo Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. [Another way of putting this is that the zodiac is the name for a series of constellations that become visible from the Earth in the course of its one-year orbit around the Sun.]

The word "zodiac" comes from the Greek zodiakos kyklos, or "circle of animals", due to the fact that all but one, Libra, of the signs represent animals or people. The zodiac was the first known system of astrological co-ordination. It was discovered and developed around 450 BC by the Babylonians, and probably the Greeks at about the same time.

The Sun’s journey through the zodiac is quite regular; it will be in roughly the same spot at the same time each year. Zodiac signs are also called "Sun Signs" because they indicate which constellation the Sun was passing through on a certain date such as when a person was born. The other planets also have regular cycles, but because these cycles vary in length from 2½ days in each sign (the moon) to 12 - 24 years in each sign (Pluto), they appear as very irregular as compared to the sun.

Each Sign of the Zodiac is associated with one of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water: Fire is about action and focused will - think lightning, thunderbolts and laser beams. It radiates. Earth is about physical things - practical, solid and grounded. It’s the glue, which binds things together. Air is about the mind, the intellect. It is energy and thought. It shapes things to come. Water is about feelings and emotion. It’s the subconscious, and connection to source. It receives.

In addition, each sign is classified as Cardinal, Fixed, or Mutable: Cardinal signs begin things. Fixed signs make sure things get done. Mutable signs adapt or alter things.

Here are the Signs of the Zodiac and a few of the qualities associated with each one of them.

Aries - I AM Aries (Mar. 21 - April 20) is the Cardinal, Fire sign, ruled by angry, aggressive Mars. This is the constellation of the Ram, which begins at the spot on the ecliptic where the Sun is on the first day of spring. You will almost certainly know it if there’s an Aries around - it’s kind of like having a fireball in your lounge. They can be volatile, arrogant and infuriating, but always loyal, passionate, energetic and courageous. They like to lead, and don’t mind being in the spotlight.

Taurus - I HAVE Taurus (Apr. 21 - May 21) is the Fixed Earth sign ruled by Venus, which symbolizes love and luxury. Taureans are reliable, loving, and faithful, but can be intolerably stubborn, have a nasty temper, - and they never forget an insult. Like the Bull who represents them once set on a course of action, their minds are not easily changed. Ever tried to stop a bull mid charge?

Gemini - I THINK Gemini (May 22 - June 21) is the Mutable Air sign ruled by Mercury the planet of travel and communication. Geminis are curious, versatile and witty. They love to talk but are prone to bouts of pessimism and will argue for fun. Gemini is represented by the twins, and can often display a degree of duality, which is very confusing.

Cancer - I FEEL Cancer (June 22 - July 22) is the Cardinal Water sign ruled by the emotional and intuitive Moon. People born under the sign of the crab are sympathetic, emotional, and romantic. They can also be shy, lazy and over sensitive. Like the crab, Cancers often hide inside a “shell.”

Leo - I WILL Leo (July 23 - Aug 22) is the Fixed Fire sign ruled by the Sun vital and dominant. Look at me - I’m the Lion! Leos are charming, creative, confident, and generous but also, like the Lion, which represents them, they tend to boast and show off, which makes them excellent entertainers. They have expensive tastes.

Virgo - I ANALYZE Virgo (Aug. 23 - Sept. 23) is the Mutable Earth sign ruled by Mercury. Competent, intelligent, and rational, Virgos can also be picky perfectionists. Represented by the virgin, they’re reserved, needing much attention and praise. Virgos are analytical, always seeking information.

Libra - I BALANCE Libra (Sept. 24 - Oct. 23) is the Cardinal Air sign ruled by Venus. Librans are trustworthy, loyal, sociable, caring, and often physically beautiful. Represented by the scales, they like fairness and balance. They’re sometimes indecisive, or possessive. Their homes tend to be very elegant.

Scorpio - I DESIRE Scorpio (Oct. 24 - Nov. 22) is the Fixed Water sign ruled by Pluto, which is all about birth and death. Scorpios are passionate, clever, intuitive, and firm but can also be temperamental, suspicious and sarcastic. Scorpios are sexy. Their symbol is the Scorpion. If you cross one, watch out for the sting in the tail!

Sagittarius - I SEE Sagittarius (Nov. 23 - Dec. 21) is the Mutable Fire sign ruled by expansive, abundant Jupiter. Sagittarians are honest, enthusiastic, generous, and faithful. They can also be blunt and impatient. Their symbol, the Archer, gives them a love of the chase. They make good philosophers and inventors.

Capricorn - I USE Capricorn (Dec. 22 - Jan. 20) is the Cardinal Earth sign, ruled by disciplined, traditional Saturn. Capricorns are serious, responsible, and practical with a dry wit. They’re careful with money. Surefooted and steadfast, they can be relied upon to stay the course if the going gets tough. Like the goat, they can be capricious, rigid and insecure. Career and status is important to them.

Aquarius - I KNOW Aquarius (Jan. 21 _ Feb. 19) is the Fixed Air sign ruled by Uranus the planet of technology and invention. Aquarians are idealistic and intellectual, with no regard for convention and can be quite eccentric. They are unpredictable, and not very sociable, preferring to be alone, yet are able to entertain and motivate others.

Pisces - I BELIEVE Pisces (Feb. 20 - Mar. 20) is the Mutable Water sign ruled by mysterious Neptune. Pisceans are compassionate, artistic, intuitive, and sensitive, but timid, vulnerable and sometimes gullible. As their symbol, a fish, swims in the water, Pisceans swim in their emotions.

By Sylvia Richards 17th August 2009

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