This is a fair question but it’s not really Ophiuchus who is doing this. It’s a bunch of folks who aren’t astrologers including him in something that isn’t western astrology, and then saying it is. Ophiuchus is a constellation. He’s not new as he’s been around a very long time, but he isn’t included in the circle of zodiac constellations, nor will he be. The Ophiuchus Debacle is being presented because it’s a mish-mash of different things all getting mixed up together. Separately, there’s truth to them but together it’s a big ol’ mess.
Fact: Ophiuchus is a constellation.
Fact: Ophiuchus is used and represented in Sidereal Astrology not Western (Tropical) Astrology, which is the form most people in the west are familiar with.
Fact: The Precession of the Equinoxes means that every few millenia, the signs of the western zodiac ‘shift’ and align with different calendar dates than what is presently used. 3000 years ago Taurus was the first sign of the zodiac, a position now held by Aries. In another 200 or so years the first sign (which begins on Mar. 20-22) will be Pisces.
Fact: The Western (Tropical) Zodiac system which most lay people/non-sidereal astrologers use is based on 12 signs, not 13 and Ophiuchus is NOT part of this system. The panic or concern that something might be changing that threatens personal identity is based on a big misunderstanding.
It’s essentially the mistake of thinking that if you’re a Leo in Western Astrology but are a rabbit in Chinese astrology, that changes your Zodiac from a lion to a bunny. It’s just not the case. You’d still be a Leo in one system, a rabbit in another. You can’t combine systems and say that one changes another. It doesn’t work like that. If you were born during Ophiuchus’s span, then that’s your sign – BUT ONLY IN THAT SYSTEM. If you aren’t following that particular system, then you’re still a Sagittarius, or Leo, or whatever.
Where the Confusion Lies
The Zodiac is a geocentric system. This means that astrology is based on the view of the heavens from the Earth and goes along with the old way of thinking that the Earth was the center of the solar system with the sun moving around it. It is divided up as a circle which of course has 360 degrees, giving each sign 30 degrees to snuggle itself into. (360/12 = 30) Obviously this is much different than the astronomical understanding of our solar system and therein lies the problem. This whole hype started [again] (because this isn’t a new debate and will probably surface again in a few years) when astronomy professor Parke Kunkle of Minneapolis Community and Technical College told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the procession of stars over time. He said, “Three thousand years ago the Sun was ‘in’ whatever it was in. Now it’s about a whole constellation off from that.” Kunkle’s quote went viral and was picked up by FOX News and other media outlets and now everyone is in a panic over the idea that they’ve lost their astrological identity. Please don’t think that Fox News is an accurate source for anything, let alone astrology. If you want to know about astrology, ask an astrologer.
Western Astrology vs. Sidereal Astrology
The signs have not shifted since your birth and your birthsign hasn’t changed, nor will it ever change. You are and will always remain the sign you were born under. Twelve is the magic number in Western Astrology – which is what we’re all familiar with and what we use. Ophiuchus has a place in Sidereal Astrology, but unless that’s the system you’re studying and working with, which is not what shows up in newspapers and magazines for your horoscope, he’s got no place and isn’t part of this system, nor will he ever be.
I love astronomy. I loved astronomy before I ever knew what a zodiac sign was. I respect astronomers and love the science they are involved in. However, astrologers and astronomers are not the same thing, which astronomers are always quite eager to profess. Therefore, they have no business sticking their noses into a field that they have no understanding of. Again — if you have questions about astrology, ask an astrologer. There’s a lot more that goes into calculating a chart than just the constellations. We have elements, polarities, qualities, aspects, planets, lunar nodes, and even some of the major asteroids if you want to get really technical.
Tropical (western) Astrology – the system you’re probably most familiar with and used to is based on 12 constellations.
12 signs breaks down into:
4 elements (earth, air, fire, water)
4 functional houses (individual, temporal, relative, terminal)
3 quadruplicities (cardinal, fixed, mutable)
3 types of modal houses (angular, succedent, cadent)
2 polarities (masculine, feminine)
and 6 pairs of opposites
This western astrology system is based on our solar system not on the constellations beyond the alignment given as to which sign gets to be ‘first’ for the current age. The entire system is based on 12 because twelve divides evenly into the 360 degrees of a circle, and is itself divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6. A 13th sign just doesn’t fit. The “new” dates are not news to astronomers, which are not the same as astrologers. Astronomers may include the 13th Zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, which some theorize was discarded by the ancient Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs and not 13. I think it could possibly also be because Scorpio is more in line with the “circle” of Zodiac constellations than Ophiuchus is.
That also probably explains why according to the new divisions Scorpio is only six days long and Ophiuchus is only 19 days long — they share a spot along the circle, thus also sharing a portion of the 360 degrees, a portion of the Sun’s time in their assigned area and therefore a portion of the calendar. Why should Scorpio be shafted? Western Astrology is based on equal divisions of time and no Scorpio I know would willingly give up two thirds of their space to some astrological upstart.
Ophiuchus is a sign in the Sidereal Zodiac or 13-sign Zodiac, which is a moving Zodiac, as opposed to the Western fixed Zodiac. This moving Zodiac that acknowledges Ophiuchus has shifted almost one full sign from the fixed Zodiac, hence the “new” astrological sign dates:
Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18 (Vernal Equinox Mar. 20-22)
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21 (Summer Solstice June 20-22)
Gemini: June 21- July 20 Cancer:
July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30 (Autumn Equinox Sept. 20-22)
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20 (Winter Solstice Dec. 20-22)
Notice that in this system, the dates of the equinoxes and solstices are totally irrelevant. Instead of beginning the cardinal signs of the zodiac; Aries: Mar. 21, Cancer: June 21, Libra: Sept. 21, and Capricorn: Dec. 21, as they do in Western Astrology, they’re just arbitrary dates that could fall anywhere in the middle of a sign. This system doesn’t match with what is used in popular Western Astrology. However looking at these dates and using them aren’t new if you’re a Sidereal Astrologer. Ophiuchus was always around and included. But we’re talking about a totally different astrological system.
The Precession of the Equinoxes
This concept isn’t new to astrologers. In astrology there is something called the Precession of the Equinoxes. This is what the astronomy professor meant when he brought this up to his class. I’m not sure really where these two principles — Sidereal Astrology and the Precession of the Equinoxes got mashed together in this issue, because they have nothing to do with one another, but here it is. The signs are named for the constellations HOWEVER they are not timed to the constellations beyond the Precession of the Equinoxes.
Presently, on the vernal equinox (c. March 21), the sun rises in the constellation of Aries. This is why Aries is given “slot #1′ in the zodiac line up. 3000 years ago the sign that rose on this date was Taurus and 1000 years from now the sign that gets this date will be Pisces. This is the Precession of the Equinoxes. It’s called a ‘precession’ because the signs appear to go backwards through the zodiac line-up. The zodiac cycle is not ‘off’ by one sign. It is precisely where it should be. For example, if you were born between May 21-June 21 of the current era, you’re probably a Gemini (I’m leaving room for cusp disputes). The issue being misconstrued here is that if you were born between those dates in 1450 B.C. then you’d be a Cancer because that’s the sign that held that spot during that time. This does not mean that you’re ‘really’ a Cancer as we aren’t operating in the year 1450 B.C. It means you’re a Gemini because you were born while Gemini is holding that slot. If you’re born on June 5th, 2250 then you’ll be a Taurus but this does not mean that you aren’t a Gemini now. The signs shift on which gets to hold what particular dates on the calendar as the Precession of Equinoxes marches on, but that doesn’t change what sign you’re born under or how your chart lines up presently. The PoE is accurate to western astrology and has been going on since the dawn of time and will continue to march along for thousands of years into the future.
The PoE is essentially this: The earth is tilted on its axis and it wobbles a bit as it moves through space. Right now our zodiac begins with Aries as the first sign because it is the constellation that the sun rises in on the day of the vernal equinox (March 20-22). This was not always the case nor will it be this way forever. Just as each sign rules a slice or portion of the year, there is something known as a Great Age which is under the rulership of a particular sign. Right now, we are in the Great Age of Pisces precisely because Aries is the sign that starts on the spring equinox. Yes, 3000 years ago Taurus was the sign beginning on the Vernal Equinox as we were in the midst of the Arian age. This still has nothing to do with Ophiuchus. It does not matter what sign began on the Vernal Equinox 3000 years ago, just as it won’t matter what sign takes over slot #1 two hundred years from now. Astrology is based on how the planets are aligned at the moment of your birth and that simply does not change.
The Age of Aquarius
There is a popular idea that we’re in or entering the Age of Aquarius. No we aren’t in it yet and yes it could be said we are entering it, but because a Great Age lasts approximately 2160 years the most that can realistically be said is that we’re cusping – to use another astrology term that means ‘border lining between two signs’. We won’t be in the Age of Aquarius until the sign that the sun rises in on the vernal equinox is Pisces. As that isn’t the current set up of things – we still have a way to go. The Great Age of Aquarius is by my estimation roughly another 200 years away and even when it hits, we’ll still be riding cusp energies for at least the first century of that while the residual Pisces influence wanes. People who don’t know what that is or what its place in astrology actually includes are mistakenly saying that Ophiuchus is involved because 3000 years ago the zodiac was on a different calendar. Anyone that knows me knows I personally would LOVE to see a constellation involving a serpent handler included in the Zodiac, but it’s just not in the stars.