The Truth About Astrology

The earliest humans looked at the star-filled night sky and knew that the shapes and patterns of the constantly shifting cosmic panopl­y must somehow be important.

Their attempts to explain the seemingly arbitrary events of life (changing seasons, wars, economic hardship, weather) and link their lives to the stars above resulted in a combination of religion and science — astrology.

The belief that the relative positions of stars and planets have some influence over the lives of humans persists to this day.

Believers call it a science, while non-believers call it nonsense. You probably know it as the horoscopes that can be found daily in almost any newspaper.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of astrology, past the simplistic sun sign newspaper horoscopes and into planetary influences and oppositions and detailed star charts. We’ll examine astrology’s long past and see if we can use astrology to peer into the future. And finally, we’ll find out why many people view astrology as mere superstition.

Astrology Basics

Astrology is the study of the influence that distant cosmic objects, usually stars and planets, have on human lives.

The position of the sun, stars, moon and planets at the time of people’s birth (not their conception) is said to shape their personality, affect their romantic relationships and predict their economic fortunes, among other divinations.

What most people know about astrology is their “sign,” which refers to one of the 12 constellations of the zodiac. This is a form of sun-sign astrology, which is the astrology upon which newspaper horoscopes are based. It is probably the simplest form, because nothing more than the date of someone’s birthday is needed to generate a sun-sign horoscope. Many astrologers will tell you that this form of astrology is so simplistic that it produces very limited results.

The sun sign represents a persons character as shown above. In order to know the full scope of what a person is really like, or yourself for that matter, you must know what sign the planets were in when you were born. Each planet rules a different aspect of your life.

Here's what I mean:

There is no single unified theory or practice of astrology. Ancient cultures all practiced their own forms, some of which combined and evolved into today’s common western astrology. Eastern cultures continue to practice their own forms of astrology: Chinese, Vedic and Tibetan astrology are among the most well-known.

What’s Your Sign?
"I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical." – Arthur C. Clarke

People’s sign, or sun sign, is determined by which zodiacal constellation the sun was in when they were born.

If it seems confusing to think of the sun being in a constellation at any time, think of the stars and planets that are visible from Earth as if they exist on a giant sphere that encompasses our planet. This is known as the celestial sphere, and it is used by astrologers and astronomers alike to make measurements of the things we see in the night sky.

As the Earth revolves around the sun, the sun appears to move across the Celestial Sphere, following a path known as the ecliptic. Each day, the sun moves about 1 degree along the ecliptic, which is offset from the Earth’s axis of rotation by 23.5 degrees. This degree variation is what accounts for seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight the Earth receives.

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac
Each sign has certain characteristics; but the signs are also categorized in several ways. First, they are grouped by element:
  • Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are associated with action, enthusiasm and leadership, as well as an openness to change. 
  • Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) embody emotion, sensitivity and compassion. 
  • Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) symbolize practicality and a focus on material goals. 
  • Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are the signs of the intellect. 
Here are the typical symbols used by astrologers to represent the sun signs:

Signs can also be cardinal, fixed, or mutable, which are related to movement, resistance to change and ability to change freely, respectively. 

And finally, each sign is either masculine or feminine, alternating around the zodiac. This designation is not related to what most of us think of as gender, but instead to the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, in which, to oversimplify a complex subject, opposing forces or traits both define and create one another.
  • Aries – The Ram March 21 – April 20 Cardinal, Fire, Masculine Proud, youthful, impulsive, brave, competitive, arrogant, violent 
  • Taurus – The Bull April 21 – May 21 Fixed, Earth, Feminine Conservative, loyal, stubborn, materialistic, resistant to change, possessive, sensual 
  • Gemini – The Twins May 22 – June 21 Mutable, Air, Masculine Persuasive, concerned with information, highly literate, curious, adaptable, absent-minded, loves to travel 
  • Cancer – The Crab June 22 – July 22 Cardinal, Water, Feminine Cautious, family-oriented, romantic, domestic, imaginative, shy, thorough, interested in the past and tradition 
  • Leo – The Lion July 23 -August 21 Fixed, Fire, Masculine Proud, courageous, stubborn, extroverted, vain, ambitious, optimistic, open, associated with royalty 
  • Virgo – The Virgin August 22 – September 23 Mutable, Earth, Feminine Conservative, shy, prudish, kindly, uptight, skeptical, concerned with health, often introverted and melancholy 
  • Libra – The Scales September 24 – October 23 Cardinal, Air, Masculine Extroverted, analytical, unbiased, secretive, tactful, concerned with harmony but prone to collapse in the face of conflict 
  • Scorpio – The Scorpion October 24 – November 22 Fixed, Water, Feminine Vengeful, sarcastic, courageous, tenacious, protective of itself, known for survival in the face of disaster 
  • Sagittarius – The Archer November 23 – December 22 Mutable, Fire, Masculine Daring, proud, impatient, dual-natured (refined and intellectual as well as bestial and passionate), extroverted, looking to the horizon, progressive, eclectic 
  • Capricorn – The Goat-Fish December 23 – January 20 Cardinal, Earth, Feminine Neurotic, introspective, inhibited, conservative, fatalistic, methodical, practical, concerned with detail, a good planner 
  • Aquarius – The Water Bearer January 21 – February 19 Fixed, Air, Masculine Intellectual, connected to civilization, rational, individualistic, iconoclastic, concerned with science, tolerant 
  • Pisces – The Fish February 20- March 20 Mutable, Water, Feminine Emotional, self-sacrificing, adaptable, empathic, religious, versatile, talkative, often takes on the behaviors of others, creative, impractical

What Can Horoscopes Tell Us?

Now that we’ve covered the ways in which astrologers develop their readings, what sorts of things can they tell us? 

A quick look at a newspaper horoscope shows us that astrological readings of this type resemble personality profiles, with relationship advice and guidelines for the right times to make important financial decisions included.

Some astrologers will even try to make specific future predictions, but most astrological readings tend to stay close to the “personal advice” formula.

However, a full, professional reading can be extremely detailed, packed with information about the interactions of the various astrological elements and how they affect the subject.

Even if you believe that the stars can’t possibly exert any influence over human lives, it can still be beneficial (or at least interesting) to read a psychological profile and consider how it relates to your own life.

How you respond to authority, what you look for in a relationship, how you relate to your parents and your typical reaction when your boss asks you to work late are all things you might not examine thoroughly — and if you do examine them, it’s often not in relation to everything else going on in your life.

A good astrological reading can bring these things together and force the subject to examine him or herself in a new light, possibly drawing important conclusions or making changes for the better.