The word astrology comes from the Greek words for “language” and “stars,” and it is therefore sometimes called “the language of the stars.” It is the study of celestial bodies and their influence on events and lives on Earth.
Beginnings of Astrology
Astrology is an ancient tradition. Archaeologists have found evidence that prehistoric humans were recording lunar cycles as far back as 25,000 years ago. As humans developed agriculture, they also studied the constellations and took note of which ones appeared during given seasons. Different star-groups were believed to indicate seasonal events like annual floods. The first undisputed astrological records were found in Mesopotamia and date back to the first dynasty (1950-1651 BC).
Different systems of astrology
Western astrology is the astrological tradition most people in Western countries are familiar with: Aries, Libra, Pisces and so forth. It is based on the “Tetrabiblos,” a 2nd century work by Ptolemy, who had compiled Hellenistic traditions that were in turn based on Babylonian astrology. Western astrology uses the tropical zodiac that is based on the position of the sun.
Chinese astrology also has a zodiac with twelve different signs – but each sign governs a year rather than a month. Each year is governed by a specific animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Chinese astrology deals less with the stars and more with cycles of time, Yin and Yang, Chi, and the five elements (wood, metal, fire, water and earth). For the record, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey – and anything can happen during such a year.
Vedic astrology is also called Jyotish, which means “science of light” in Sanskrit. Like Western astrology, it describes the planetary movements at the time of one’s birth. Unlike Western astrology, Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac that is based on the observable positions of constellations.
Terms used in Astrology
The zodiac is the set of constellations that the sun passes through during its journey across the sky. Since the planets are more or less on the same plane as the sun, they pass through the same constellations the sun does. Those constellations are the signs used in Western astrology: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. Since different cultures see different patterns in the stars, their zodiacs can have a different number of constellations, as well as different names.
Sun sign astrology is the simplified form of Western astrology used in newspapers and magazines. It determines a person’s sign, personality and fortune by the date of their birth. For example, anybody born between October 24 and November 22 will be a Scorpio.
Sometimes, a person will be born “on the cusp,” which means they were born within a few days of the sun’s transitioning from one Zodiac sign to another. Such people will be influenced by two sun signs. For example, someone born on November 23 is technically a Sagittarius, but because the sun had just moved from Scorpio, they will have some of the traits of someone born under Scorpio.
Technically, a horoscope is an astrological chart that shows the positions of the sun, moon and planets during a given event, such as a person’s birth. It will also include calculations based on the positions of those heavenly bodies. Most people use the word to describe an astrologer’s interpretation of the chart.
There are twelve of these:
Aries the Ram (March 21 – April 19)
Taurus the Bull (April 20-May 20)
Gemini the Twins (May 21-June20)
Cancer the Crab (June 21- July 22)
Leo the Lion (July 23- August 22)
Virgo the Virgin (August 23 – September 22)
Libra the Scales (September 23 – October 22)
Scorpio the Scorpion (October 23 – November 21)
Sagittarius the Archer (November 22- December 21)
Capricorn the Goat (December 22 – January 19)
Aquarius the Water-bearer (January 20 – February 18)
Pisces the Fish (February 19 – March 20)
Some descriptions of the signs will include items like associated elements, qualities, birthstones, lucky colors, ruling planets and polarities. The elements are the four elements of antiquity: fire, earth, air and water. They cycle through the signs in that exact order, so Aries is a fire sign, Taurus is an earth sign, Gemini is an air sign and so on.
Zodiac signs also have qualities or modes that indicate how people handle stress and react to stimuli. The various signs can be cardinal, fixed or mutable, and they again cycle through those qualities. Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are cardinal signs; Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are fixed signs, and the remaining four are mutable signs.
There are two polarities and they are sometimes described as yang/yin, male/female, positive/negative. Signs having the same polarity can understand each other, while those belong to opposite polarities have trouble doing so. Odd-numbered signs like Aries are yang, while even-numbered signs like Taurus are yin.
Using astrology to find Mr. or Ms. Right
A lot of people use astrology to determine if their compatibility with a lover. Elements associated with the signs not only affect personality in good and bad ways, they can also indicate how compatible two signs are. Zodiac signs that share an element will have at least some traits in common. On the other hand, they might have shared weaknesses that can affect a relationship. Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, for example, are all Earth signs and understand each other – but they tend to be pessimists and can bring each other down.
As air can fuel fire, Air and Fire signs are compatible. Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius can thus match up nicely with Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Water puts out fire, so Water and Fire signs tend not to get along. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces should therefore rethink dating Aries, Leo or Sagittarius. Air signs and Earth signs don’t do anything for each other; Air signs tend to be restless and Earth signs are anything but.
Fire signs and Earth signs tend to be the least compatible. There can be an initial attraction, as fire touches the earth and makes it sizzle. In nature, fire can penetrate deep into the earth and cause damage. Relationships between Fire and Earth signs can end just as badly.
Earth signs do best with Water signs. Water can moisten the earth and make plants grow. Relationships between Earth signs and Water signs can do just as well. As for Water and Air, they might clash, or they might be able to make their relationship work.