Constellation of the Zodiac and Sign of the Zodiac are many times confused as the same thing, and they are not.
A Constellation of the Zodiac is a group of stars that the human imagination in ancient times gave the shape of a ram, a bull, twins, a crab, and etcetera. They are aligned in the ring that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. They all vary in size. No constellation of the Zodiac is the same size as another. The paths of the Moon and planets also lie roughly within the ecliptic, and are also within the constellations of the zodiac. The stars that form part of the each constellation of the zodiac are not tied to each other, they are moving independently across the universe, and one day (millions of years from now) we won’t be able to find the image they once formed.
The Signs of the Zodiac divide that same ecliptic or solar path across the yearly sky, into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude. The Signs of the zodiac are all exactly 1/12th of that path, all the same size. Saying it in other words; let’s say
the path of the sun through the year is a circle, 360 degrees, so that each Sign of the Zodiac will be 30 degrees, exactly the same sizes as the rest. One of the most important uses of the Signs of the Zodiac in ancient times was to keep track of the
seasons for agricultural purposes. That is why the first sign of the Zodiac is counted from the beginning of the spring, Aries.
In ancient times the Signs of the Zodiac used to coincide with the appearance in the sky of the Constellations of the Zodiac, so each Sign or period of time of 1/3 of a season adopted the same name as the Constellation that was shown in the sky, and here is where the confusion of a Sign of a Zodiac and a Constellation of the Zodiac came into place.
Since the Signs of the Zodiac are directly connected to the movement of our planet Earth around the sun through the year, and this movement is the cause of the seasons, then understanding as noted before that all signs are exactly the same length, helps us know that there can only be 12 signs, and not 13.
A while ago there was a buzz about a new Constellation of the Zodiac, which by the way is not new, it has existed forever.
Ophiuchus is its name, and as we said, it’s a Constellation, a group of stars that form a pattern in the sky. It is located between the Constellation of Scorpio and Sagittarius. Now the Signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius, not the Constellations of the
same name, are not composed of stars but are actual identifiers of a particular period in time in our planet called Fall, and this is why Ophiuchus will never be a sign.
Let us take a deeper look into the Signs of the Zodiac, if we divide the Signs into their particular times in the year, we will see that, for Spring we have: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, for the Summer we have: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, for the Fall: Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and for Winter: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.
If we could take a big jump, and suspend ourselves in space, we would see the Earth moving up and down as it spins in its tilted axe around the sun. We would see the poles moving up and down and the light of the Sun illuminating different parts of the planet as the seasons change. Basically the Signs of the Zodiac are more of a tracking system of the cycle of life in our planet, and if we study a bit more closely we can realize that there are similarities between the characteristics given to each sign and the period of time it corresponds to in the earthly cycle.
There is a book that I really like, which describes in detail about the Signs and the Seasons. It’s called “Pulse of Life” by Dane Rudhyar.
But in just a few lines I would like to leave you with some food for thought, and we’ll define in quickly what each season is and will pick a few signs of each season to find the correlation.
Spring: refers to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. Spring Signs are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini.
As we can see, the sign of Aries is a reflection of this time of the year, starting new, sprouting out, initiating. Once the start is settled and the seed becomes a plant it gets rooted into the ground opening the door for the sign of Taurus. Once it has found its foundation, it relaxes the working time and gives forth to socialize and getting to know who is around, reflecting the idea of Gemini.
Summer: Encompasses the build-up to the longest day and a diminishing thereafter, with summer having many more hours of daylight and the shortest nights. Summer Signs: Cancer, Leo, Virgo.
Cancer has settled in, has grown its seed and is ready to form a family, to nourish. With its produce already mature and with experience Leo comes in to lead and guide. As the closing time gets near Virgo decides to be smart to question himself and be ready for the change coming ahead.
Fall: Transition from warm to cold weather, and its related status as the season of the primary harvest. Fall Signs: Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius.
Libra understands that only as a social force can we collect as much for the hard times of the winter coming up in the horizon.
Scorpio sees the death of the final product that started in spring with the hope of the renewal. The Sagittarius energy learned how to keep stock and wants to teach and explore new places to get more provisions.
Winter is the coldest season of the year. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest. Winter Signs: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.
Capricorn sees the coldest times coming in, the need to save the grain for the entire winter. Aquarius finds energy to create out of nowhere to see there is a new beginning coming up. Pisces with patience to withstand the severity of the weather understands the power of the universe to sustain us through the hardship.
As we have noticed each stage that marks the earth’s biosphere does have a direct connection to the description that each of the Zodiac Signs have, helping us understand that they are here to help us follow the flow of life in our planet as it relates to the rest of the universe.