Updated: Jan 17
It appears at least once a year, the 13th Sign of Ophiuchus post goes around informing the masses that their Zodiac Sign has changed. Ophiuchus is not a “new” discovery, in fact, it was recorded as far back as the 2nd century by Greek astrologer Ptolemy and perhaps even earlier than that. Those who study the practice of Astrology know that Ophiuchus has nothing to do with the Zodiac, it’s a constellation.
What is the Zodiac?
I think people initially get confused when they hear the term Zodiac Sign. When you hear the term Zodiac Sign, you think to your identity label, I am an Aries, or Pisces or Libra.
The Zodiac is an area of the sky, its that simple. It measures the pathway that planets travel. The Zodiac “Signs”, simply put, are 12 equal 30-degree parts or divisions of the Ecliptic. So the Zodiac essentially divides the sky. The constellations add inspiration and influence to the planet journeying through that division or portion of the sky (Zodiac Sign).
There are three main Zodiac systems - the way of dividing and measuring the sky and interpreting the celestial movements.
Tropical, Sidereal and Chinese. As I said, astrologers have been fully aware of Ophiuchus for well over 2000 years, but, we’ve stuck to the original names that the zodiac (divisions of the ecliptic) were given.
The Tropical Zodiac.
In the west we commonly use the tropical Zodiac, being the most known and popular, everyone knows there Sun sign. It’s important to note that you’re NOT just your Sun Sign; you're a unique combination of all the celestial objects up there in the cosmos. You’ve got a Moon sign, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and so on and so on… all situated in a unique position of the sky.
If you use the Tropical zodiac, you don’t pay attention to the constellations, because the Tropical Zodiac is bound to the seasons, not the literal constellations. So you need not concern yourself with Ophiuchus, it's something that has more to do with the Sidereal zodiac, being constellation and star-based. So the Zodiac Sign changes that are circling are relevant only to sidereal astrology, NOT Tropical. Remember Ophiuchus is a constellation, not a Zodiac Sign.
The Archetypes and Divisions of the sky.
The Rashi or Zodiac signs are archetypes; they divide the sky into 12, 30-degree portions, making up the 360-degree wheel, so mathematically it's not possible to invent an extra part or division in the sky. It’s perfectly designed, it’s ancient, it works, 12 Rashi, zodiac signs to the 12 areas of life, houses. The division of the sky or Zodiac is inspired by the constellations. Ophiuchus is a constellation that could be included in its interpretation as the later part of the Jyestha into Mula, a Lunar Mansion, but, has nothing to do with the Rashi or Zodiac Signs.
The lunar Mansions divide the sky further into 27/28 parts and sit behind the 12 Zodiac signs. They coincide with the Moon's journey/orbit through the night's sky. Each lunar mansion making up 13’20 degrees of the sky, meaning each Zodiac sign is broken into 2.5 parts/lunar mansions. Each Lunar Manion is broken down further into 4 parts known as padas, further personalising the expression… which is why not all planets moving through the “signs” are the same way expressed.
Sidereal & Tropical | two sides of the same coin
When it comes to the form of Astrology, they are told from two different perspectives, the Sidereal and the Tropical.
The Tropical Zodiac/western astrology is seasonal and is formed around the equinoxes/solstices that we experience here on earth. Aries is the spring, Cancer would be summer, Libra is Autumn and Capricorn, Winter. In a way, you could say the signs of the Zodiac are bound to the seasons we experience in any given year.
What’s important to mention is that during the time of the Sun in Aries from Tropical zodiac, it’s in reality, moving through Pisces in the sidereal Zodiac. If you’ve ever pulled your Vedic chart, most people fall 23 degrees behind their Tropical Zodiac sign. I am a 22 degree Pisces in Tropical and a 29 Degree Aquarius in Sidereal. I think of it as two sides of the same story.
Most Western astrologers pay very little attention to the actual constellations and where the planets actually are up in the cosmos. It’s calendar efficient, again based on the seasons and equinoxes.
Think of Tropical astrology, “as within so without”. Its a projection of earth out into the cosmos, or the relationship of the Sun and Earth. Tropical means "pertaining to the turning", referring to the Sun turning around the equinox.
Sidereal is the other way around, “as above so below”. The Sidereal Zodiac is based on the actual positions of the planets as they move through the cosmos. Sidereal is the original form of astrology; it far precedes western or the tropical Zodiac. Sidereal means, "pertaining to the stars".
In the west we get attached to our labels, we get attached to being our Sun Sign… Sidereal offers more with the Lunar Mansions, Dasha timing, divisional charts and the added expression it gives a person to how we express a Planet's energy. For the most part, tropical astrology feels more material and accessible, which is the sole reason for its popularity. Sidereal offers more if you're willing to dig, it feels more spiritual and soulful in my opinion, which is why I do encompass Sidereal astrology into my practice of Astrology.
The Great Divide | and once upon a time…
So, many, many, many moons ago both systems lined up. Every 2160 years they move an entire sign away from each other. It’s what Astrologers call precession. . . Every 72 years, the zodiacs shift a degree further apart.
Bottom line Astrology is as old as time. Astrology maps that time. If the grandmasters and ancestors of Astrology didn’t name Ophiuchus a Zodiac sign, why are people trying to now… Why try to “fix” something that quite frankly is NOT broken, it already works.
The Sidereal System I use is ancient, not this division of including Ophiuchus as a zodiac sign. I do not know of any ancient astrologers using this system. I prefer to work with what works. Having studied and still studying Vedic, Jyotish, western, and Chinese astrology forms... I believe each system shares a different perspective upon the same story (chart).
The Signs | why can I not be Ophiuchus?
A sign is just an expression of energy, inspired action or behaviour that a planet moving through that part of the sky will exude. So, a planet in the constellation of Ophiuchus will be imbued with the expression of Ophiuchus. Remember that Signs take inspiration from the constellations, and then, there are lunar mansions. Lunar Mansions further divide the sky into 27/28 parts, which can be used to understand the vibe and expression of a planet.
To conclude. Ophiuchus is a not labelled a zodiac sign its just a constellation of which there are many many more than the 12 zodiac signs you’re familiar with. Zodiac Signs are not constellations.
I hope this has helped you to understand the misconceptions of the 13th sign.