Astrological sign

Astrological sign
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Astrological signs represent twelve equal segments or divisions of the zodiac. According to astrology, celestial phenomena reflect or govern human activity on the principle of "as above, so below", so that the twelve signs are held to represent twelve basic personality types or characteristic modes of expression.[1] There are "sun" signs and "moon" signs, which both depend on your date of birth.

Various approaches to measuring and dividing the sky are currently used by differing systems of astrology, although the tradition of the Zodiac's names and symbols remain consistent. Western astrology measures from Equinox and Solstice points (points relating to longest, equal and shortest days of the tropical year), while Jyotiṣa or Vedic astrology measures along the equatorial plane (sidereal year). Precession results in Western astrology's zodiacal divisions not corresponding in the current era to the constellations that carry similar names,[2] while Jyotiṣa measurements still correspond with the background constellations.[3]

In Indian astrology, the twelve signs are associated with constellations, while in Chinese astrology and Western Astrology there is no connection with constellations, as it is simply the line of the equator that is divided into twelve equal segments.[citation needed]

In Western and Asian astrology, the emphasis is on space, and the movement of the Sun, Moon and planets in the sky through each of the zodiac signs. In Chinese astrology, by contrast, the emphasis is on time, with the zodiac operating on cycles of years, months, and hours of the day. A common feature of all three traditions however, is the significance of the ascendant or rising sign, namely the zodiac sign that is rising (due to the rotation of the earth) on the eastern horizon at the moment of a person's birth.

From the viewpoint of earth (geocentric), the Sun appears to move along a circular orbit across the celestial sphere, this circular orbit is called the ecliptic. The zodiac refers to the thin band along the ecliptic composed of the zodiac signs and constellations. The zodiac is divided into twelve different signs each of which is 30 degrees long and begins at Aries. In Tropical Astrology Aries begins at the vernal equinox. The order of the zodiac signs is Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. It is believed that the concept of the zodiac had evolved from Babylonian astronomy, and was later influenced by Hellenistic astronomy.

During ancient times, people monitored the passage of the sun because it was useful in predicting the change of seasons. Over time, however, people have begun to associate the zodiac sign, or Sun’s position in the zodiac, with birth dates and characteristics.


Western zodiac signs

Zodiac symbolism

The symbols used in Western astrology to represent the astrological signs

This table[4] shows the zodiac names in Latin with their English translation. It also shows the element and quality associated with each sign.

Symbol Sign names English name Element Quality Polarity Planet Period of birth[5]
Aries.svg Aries The Ram Fire Cardinal Positive Mars March 21 - April 20
Taurus.svg Taurus The Bull Earth Fixed Negative Venus April 21 - May 20
Gemini.svg Gemini The Twins Air Mutable Positive Mercury May 21 - June 20
Cancer.svg Cancer The Crab Water Cardinal Negative Moon June 21 - July 22
Leo.svg Leo The Lion Fire Fixed Positive Sun July 23 - August 22
Virgo.svg Virgo The Virgin Earth Mutable Negative Mercury August 23 - September 22
Libra.svg Libra The Scales Air Cardinal Positive Venus September 23 - October 22
Scorpio.svg Scorpio The Scorpion Water Fixed Negative Pluto October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius.svg Sagittarius The Archer/Centaur Fire Mutable Positive Jupiter November 22 - December 21
Capricorn.svg Capricorn The Sea-goat Earth Cardinal Negative Saturn December 22 - January 19
Aquarius.svg Aquarius The Water-Carrier Air Fixed Positive Uranus January 20 - February 19
Pisces.svg Pisces The Fish Water Mutable Negative Neptune February 20 - March 20

The four elements

Four Classical Elements; this classic diagram has two squares on top of each other, with the corners of one being the classical elements, and the corners of the other being the properties

Empedocles, a fifth century BCE Greek philosopher, identified Fire, Earth, Air, and Water as elements. He explained the nature of the universe as an interaction of two opposing principles called love and strife manipulating the four elements. He stated that these four elements were all equal, of the same age, that each rules its own province, and each possesses its own individual character. Different mixtures of these elements produced the different natures of things. Empedocles said that those who have near equal proportions of the four elements are more intelligent and have the most exact perceptions.[6]

Each sign is associated one of the classical elements (water, fire, earth and air.) [7] Fire and Air signs are considered positive or extrovert, masculine signs; while Water and Earth signs are considered negative, introvert, feminine signs.

  • Fire signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius)
  • Earth signs (Taurus, Capricorn, Virgo)
  • Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
  • Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)

The Three Qualities

The Qualities assign the Signs into Quadruplicities, three groups of four.[8] They are occasionally referred to as crosses because each quality forms a cross when drawn across the zodiac. Christian astrology relates the three qualities to the three aspects of God in the trinity.

  • Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn)

Additional classifications

While knowing the element and quality of a sign is sufficient to define it, several other groupings[citation needed] can be used for those interested in better understanding their symbolism. The most common is a sequential cycle detailed below.[citation needed] Although most commonly used to define planets, it is valid for signs as well. This cycle has been used as a metaphorical descriptor of the process of birth, development, and death, of humans, societies, or even humanity.[9]

  • Personal Signs - Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer [10]
  • Interpersonal Signs - Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio[10]
  • Transpersonal Signs - Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces - are principally aware of and concerned with humanitarian and existential concerns.[10]

The Tropical Zodiac Primary Factors: These factors were presented by Dane Rudhyar in his book "Astrological Signs - The Pulse of Life, and are used in the curriculum of the RASA School of Astrology.

The tropical zodiac is the zodiac of seasonal factors as opposed to the sidereal zodiac of constellation factors. The primary seasonal factors are based on the sunlight. In fact the tropical zodiac could be defined as the changing ratio of light and darkness across the year.

First factor: Half of the year daylight is increasing, and the other half darkness is increasing.

Second factor: Half of the year there is more daylight than darkness, and the other half there is more darkness than daylight.

Third Factor: the four seasons. Winter: Daylight is increasing and there is more darkness than daylight. Spring: Daylight is increasing and there is more daylight than darkness Summer: Darkness is increasing and there is more daylight than darkness. Autumn: Darkness is increasing and there is more darkness than daylight.

[11] [12] [13]

Planetary rulerships

The symbols used in Western astrology to represent the astrological planets

In traditional Western astrology, each sign is ruled by one and only one of the seven visible planets (note that in astrology, the Sun and Moon are termed The Lights by astrologers, while the other bodies are called planets, which literally means wanderers, i.e. wandering stars as opposed to the fixed stars). The traditional rulerships are as follows: Aries (Mars), Taurus (Venus), Gemini (Mercury), Cancer (Moon), Leo (Sun), Virgo (Mercury), Libra (Venus), Scorpio (Pluto), Sagittarius (Jupiter), Capricorn (Saturn), Aquarius (Uranus), Pisces (Jupiter).[14] Psychologically-oriented astrologers often believe that Uranus is the ruler or co-ruler of Aquarius instead of Saturn, Neptune is the ruler or co-ruler of Pisces instead of Jupiter, and that Pluto is the ruler or co-ruler of Scorpio instead of Mars. Some other astrologers believe that the planetoid Chiron may be the ruler of Virgo, while other group of modern astrologers acclaim that Ceres is the ruler of Taurus instead. Traditional astrology adheres to the rulerships system listed in the paragraph above, and the debate continues between those who consider the newly discovered planets as rulers or co-rulers of certain signs and those that do not.

Alternatively, some[who?] astrologers use the former planets Pallas, Vesta, Juno and Hygiea in their delineations and rulerships, for example Vesta to Taurus and Pallas to Virgo.

Some astrologers do not even use the astrological signs at all (mostly Cosmobiologists and Uranian Astrologers/Hamburg School); therefore they do not take into account planetary rulerships and the essential dignities when interpreting an astrological chart.

Note that, if one starts from Leo and Cancer, the planetary rulers are arrayed in the same order from the sun as they occur in the natural solar system. Sun rules Leo, Moon rules Cancer, then Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, Venus rules Taurus and Libra, Earth Co-rules Taurus, Mars rules Aries and Co-rules for Scorpio, Jupiter Co-rules Pisces and rules for Sagittarius, Saturn Co-rules Aquarius and rules Capricorn and Uranus rules and Saturn Co-rules for Aquarius.

Dignity and detriment, exaltation and fall

A traditional belief of astrology, known as essential dignity, is the idea that the Sun, Moon and planets are more powerful and effective in some signs than others, because the basic nature of both is held to be in harmony. By contrast, the Sun, Moon and planets are held to find some signs to be weak or difficult to operate in because their natures are thought to be in conflict . The most important of these categories are Dignity, Detriment, Exaltation and Fall.

  • Dignity and Detriment : A planet is strengthened or dignified if it falls within the sign that it rules. In other words it is said to exercise Rulership of the sign. For example, the Moon in Cancer is considered "strong" (well-dignified). Seventeenth century astrologer William Lilly compared rulership to a king on his throne, with considerable dignity. If a planet is in the sign opposite that which it rules (or is dignified), it is said to be weakened or in Detriment, for example the Moon in Capricorn.[15]

In traditional astrology, other levels of Dignity are recognised in addition to Rulership. These are known as Exaltation (see below), Triplicity, Terms or bounds, and Face or Decan, which together are known as describing a planet's Essential dignity, the quality or ability to give of one's true nature. Contemporary traditional astrologers like John Frawley or J Lee Lehman explain further on the concept of Essential Dignity.[15]

  • Exaltation and Fall : In addition, a planet is also strengthened when it is in its sign of Exaltation. In traditional horary astrology, Exaltation denotes a level of dignity somewhat exaggerated compared to rulership. Exaltation was considered to give the planet (or what it signified in a horary chart) dignity, with the metaphor of an honoured guest - who is the centre of attention but the extent of their ability to act is limited. Examples of planets in their Exaltation are: Saturn (Libra), Sun (Aries), Venus (Pisces), Moon (Taurus), Mercury (Virgo, although some disagree to this classification), Mars (Capricorn), Jupiter (Cancer). A planet in the opposite sign of its Exaltation is said to be in its Fall , and thus weakened, perhaps seemingly more so than Detriment. The Planet in fall is passively rejected or ignored by the sign that it's in. It can be likened to a mayor of a rival city trying to make suggestions to the hosting mayor for how he should run his city: The host mayor finds it difficult to trust him and cannot see how his input could have relevancy to his city. The people of the city feel the same as their ruler. The result is impasse and failure on behalf of both mayors and the city.[15]

In addition to Essential dignity, the traditional astrologer considers Accidental dignity of planets. This is placement by house in the chart under examination. Accidental dignity describes the planet's "ability to act". So we might have, for example, Moon in Cancer, dignified by rulership, is placed in the 12th house it would have little scope to express its good nature.[16] The 12th is a cadent house as are the 3rd, 6th and 9th and planets in these houses are considered weak or afflicted. On the other hand, Moon in the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th would be more able to act as these are Angular houses. Planets in Succedent houses of the chart (2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th) are generally considered to be of medium ability to act. Besides Accidental Dignity, there are a range of Accidental Debilities, such as retrogradation, Under the Sun's Beams, Combust, and so forth.

Jyotish or Indian zodiac signs

In Indian astrology, there are five elements. (1)fire (2)earth (3)air (4)water (5)space. The master of fire is Mars, while Mercury is of earth, Saturn of air, Venus of water and Jupiter of space. ("grahbhedadhyāy",Brihadjataka by varāhmihira) It is wellknown system in India making "janmākśar" i.e. horoscope.the rāśi's elements is explained as "hansak".agni(fire),bhumi(earth),vayu(air) and vari(water).so the Tava (elements 5) and hansak (4). Here the same numbers 5 as in Chinese 5.

Jyotish astrology recognises twelve zodiac signs, or Rashis:[17]

Number Sanskrit Name Western/Greek Name Tattva (Element) Quality Ruling Planet
1 Meṣa (मेष) "ram" Aries (Κριός "ram") Tejas (Fire) Cara (Movable) Mars
2 Vṛṣabha (वृषभ) "bull" Taurus (Ταῦρος "bull") Prithivi (Earth) Sthira (Fixed) Venus
3 Mithuna (मिथुन) "twins" Gemini (Δίδυμοι "twins") Vayu (Air) Dvisvabhava (Dual) Mercury
4 Karkaṭa (कर्कट) "crab" Cancer (Καρκίνος "crab") Jala (Water) Cara (Movable) Moon
5 Siṃha (सिंह) "lion" Leo (Λέων "lion") Tejas (Fire) Sthira (Fixed) Sun
6 Kanyā (कन्या) "girl" Virgo (Παρθένος "virgin") Prithivi (Earth) Dvisvabhava (Dual) Mercury
7 Tulā (तुला) "balance" Libra (Ζυγός "balance") Vayu (Air) Cara (Movable) Venus
8 Vṛścika (वृश्चिक) "scorpion" Scorpio (Σκoρπιός "scorpion") Jala (Water) Sthira (Fixed) Mars
9 Dhanus (धनुष) "bow" Sagittarius (Τοξότης "archer") Tejas (Fire) Dvisvabhava (Dual) Jupiter
10 Makara (मकर) "sea-monster" Capricorn (Αἰγόκερως "goat-horned") Prithivi (Earth) Cara (Movable) Saturn
11 Kumbha (कुम्भ) "pitcher" Aquarius (Ὑδροχόος "water-pourer") Vayu (Air) Sthira (Fixed) Saturn
12 Mīna (मीन) "fish" Pisces (Ἰχθεῖς "fish") Jala (Water) Dvisvabhava (Dual) Jupiter

Note that the dates for these zodiac signs is different than the Western Zodaic, as it is based off of the positions of the fixed stars.


A nakshatra (Devanagari: नक्षत्र, Sanskrit nakshatra, from naksha- 'approach', and tra- 'guard') or lunar mansion is one of the 27 divisions of the sky, identified by the prominent star(s) in them, as used in Hindu astronomy and astrology (Jyotisha).[18]

Chinese zodiac signs

Unlike the Western or Indian zodiacs, the Chinese zodiac signs are not derived from constellations, and are not assigned to sections of the ecliptic. Instead, Chinese astrological signs operate on cycles of years, lunar months, and two-hour periods of the day (also known as shichen). A particular feature of the Chinese zodiac is its operation in a sixty year cycle in combination with the Five Phases of Chinese astrology (Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, and Earth). Nevertheless some researches says that there is an obvious relationship between the Chinese 12-year cycle and zodiac constellations: each year of the cycle corresponds to a certain disposal of Jupiter. For example, in the year of Snake Jupiter is in the Sign of Gemini, in the year of Horse Jupiter is in the Sign of Cancer and so on. So the Chinese 12-year calendar is a solar-lunar-jupiterian calendar.

Zodiac symbolism

The following table shows the twelve signs and their attributes.

Sign Yin/Yang Direction Season Fixed Element Trine
Rat Yang North Winter Water 1st
Ox Yin North Winter Water 2nd
Tiger Yang East Spring Wood 3rd
Rabbit Yin East Spring Wood 4th
Dragon Yang East Spring Wood 1st
Snake Yin South Summer Fire 2nd
Horse Yang South Summer Fire 3rd
Goat Yin South Summer Fire 4th
Monkey Yang West Autumn Metal 1st
Rooster Yin West Autumn Metal 2nd
Dog Yang West Autumn Metal 3rd
Pig Yin North Winter Water 4th

The twelve signs

Chart showing the 24 cardinal directions and the symbols of the sign associated with them.

In Chinese astrology the zodiac of twelve animal sign represents twelve different types of personality. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the Origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so. When the twelve zodiac signs are part of the sixty year calendar in combination with the four elements, they are traditionally called the twelve earthly branches. The Chinese Zodiac follows the lunisolar Chinese calendar and thus the "changeover" days in a month (when one sign changes to another sign) vary each year. The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order.[19]

  1. Rat (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): Rat years include 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008. The Rat also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Rat are 11pm - 1am.
  2. Ox (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water): Ox years include 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009. The Ox also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Ox are 1am - 3am.
  3. Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Tiger years include 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010. The Tiger also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Tiger are 3am - 5am.
  4. Rabbit (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Rabbit Years include 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011. The Rabbit also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Rabbit are 5am - 7am.
  5. Dragon (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Dragon years include 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012. The Dragon also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Dragon are 7am - 9am.
  6. Snake (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Snake years include 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013. The Snake also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Snake are 9am - 11am.
  7. Horse (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Horse years include 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014. The Horse also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Horse are 11am - 1pm.
  8. 未 Goat (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Goat years include 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015. The Goat also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Goat are 1pm - 3pm.
  9. Monkey (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Monkey years include 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016. The Monkey also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Monkey are 3pm - 5pm.
  10. Rooster (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Rooster years include 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017. The Rooster also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Rooster are 5pm - 7pm.
  11. Dog (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Dog years include 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018. The Dog also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Dog are 7pm - 9pm.
  12. Pig (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Pig years include 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019. The Pig also corresponds to a particular month in the year. The hours of the Pig are 9pm - 11pm.

The five elements

The elements differ in Chinese astrology from their Western counterparts: Air is not one of the elements as defined by the Chinese. Instead, Wood and Metal are elements alongside Earth, Fire and Water. In addition, the elements also govern various aspects of one's personality, and are assigned to various other things such as directions (North, South, East and West), colours, seasons and planets. The characteristics of the four elements are as follows:[20]

  • Metal: The metal person is rigid and resolute in expression and intense, with strong feelings. The direction associated with Metal is West, and the season is autumn, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Monkey, Rooster and Dog.
  • Water: The water person is a good communicator and persuader, intuitive and sympathetic to others and good at conveying feelings and emotions. The direction associated with Water is North, and the season is winter, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Pig, Rat and Ox.
  • Wood: The wood person has high morals, is self confident, expansive and co-operative, with wide and varied interests. The direction associated with Wood is East, and the season is spring, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Tiger, Rabbit and Dragon.
  • Fire: The fire person has leadership qualities, and is decisive, self confident, positive and assertive. The direction associated with Fire is South, and the season is summer, which makes it the fixed element for the animal signs Snake, Horse and Goat.
  • Earth:The earth person is serious, logical and methodical, intelligent, objective and good at planning. Earth represents the change of seasons.

The five elements operate together with the twelve animal signs in a sixty year calendar. The four elements appear in the calendar in both their yin and yang forms and are known as the eight heavenly stems. When trying to calculate the relevant year of the cycle in relation to the Western calendar, an easy rule to follow is that years that end in an odd number are Yin, those that end with an even number are Yang.


  1. ^ Jeff Mayo, Teach Yourself Astrology, p 35, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1979
  2. ^ Bobrick, Benson. "The Fated Sky: Astrology in History". Simon&Schuster, 2005, p. 10, 23.
  3. ^ Johnsen, Linda. "A Thousand Suns: Designing Your Future with Vedic Astrology". Yes International Publishers (March 1, 2004).
  4. ^ "Zodiac." McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2005. 29 Nov. 2007.
  5. ^ "12 Zodiac Sign Profiles". Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  6. ^ “Astrology and The Four Elements by Charlie Higgins” 1997.
  7. ^ Robert Pelletier & Leonard Cataldo Ibid p 43, 1984; Maritha Pottenger, Ibid, pp 383 - 93, 1991
  8. ^ Robert Pelletier & Leonard Cataldo Ibid p 44 , 1984; Maritha Pottenger, Ibid, pp 383 - 93, 1991
  9. ^ “Introduction to Astrology”. Self Healing Australia. 26 Nov.2007.
  10. ^ a b c "An Introduction to Astrology." 25 Nov.2007.
  11. ^ "Astrological Signs – The Pulse of Life." by Dane Rudhyar 1943.
  12. ^ "The Signs and the Houses", by Robin Armstrong, RASA School of Astrology 2009
  13. ^ "I Ching: The Sequence of Change", by Robin Armstrong, RA Publications 2009
  14. ^ "Rulerships." Carol Wills 2007. 25 Nov.2007.
  15. ^ a b c “Glossary of Astrological Terms”. Logos, Asaa 1998-2004. 26 Nov 2007.
  16. ^ “Accidental Dignity”. Astrological Dictionary 1998-2007. 26 Nov 2007.
  17. ^ The Essentials of Vedic Astrology, by Komilla Sutton, The Wessex Astrologer Ltd, 1999, England, pp.74-92.
  18. ^ The Essentials of Vedic Astrology, by Komilla Sutton, The Wessex Astrologer Ltd, 1999, England, p.168.
  19. ^ Theodora Lau, Ibid, pp2-8, 30-5, 60-4, 88-94, 118-24, 148-53, 178-84, 208-13, 238-44, 270-78, 306-12, 338-44, 2005
  20. ^ Theodora Lau, Ibid, ppxxx- xxxvi, 2005

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