The signs of the zodiac date back as far as the Babylonian empire and their study of the constellations led them to create something similar to our calendar year so they could track the course of the year through the skies. From this they were able to create the first known celestial coordinate system. You can see how the signs of the zodiac have a long, important history in our lives.
Though the application of the zodiac has certainly changed over the course of centuries, there are some things that have essentially remained the same. In fact, many of the signs still have their ancient Chaldean names such as Gemini the Twins, known as “The Great Twins” during ancient times, or Taurus the Bull who was known as “The Great Steer”. After all, though human beings may evolve and change, the stars remain constant in their path through our skies.
But what are the zodiac signs? How are they assigned? How do we know which one we can call our own?
There are twelve well known zodiac signs, each assigned a portion of the night sky beginning with Aries who is located at the vernal equinox and ending with Pisces. Though modern astronomy has discovered a thirteenth sign, Ophiuchus, the twelve most well known signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. No one is quite sure why it was Ophiuchus was left out of the original signs that have been around for centuries. It could be that he was mostly hidden by the sun and only appeared briefly making it difficult to rely on his presence in the sky.
In addition to the twelve most known signs, the zodiac also covers the four elements: fire, air, earth, and water. Each of these is paired with three of the signs and covers the different personality types. Fire and air are considered “masculine” and cover enthusiasm and communication while earth and water are “feminine” and provide practicality and emotion to the world. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are considered fire signs, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are air signs. Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn while water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
The next part of the zodiac signs are the modalities. The modalities are often referred to as crosses because they make a cross when drawn across the zodiac. In fact, the branches of Christianity that practice astrology consider the modalities to be the aspects of God as He is in the Trinity. The three modalities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Each comes with its own set of characteristic actions such as the fixed signs, Leo, Taurus, Scorpio and Aquarius being resistant to change and inflexible.
All three parts make up the zodiac signs and you cannot have a complete zodiac sign without each of the pieces!
The final part of the astrological zodiac is the ruling planet. Each planet has four phases, dignity, detriment, exaltation, and fall, and a sign that goes with it. In modern astrology the planets and signs are paired as:
Mars in Aries
Earth in Taurus
Mercury in Gemini
Moon in Cancer
Sun in Leo
Mercury in Virgo
Venus in Libra
Pluto in Scorpio
Jupiter in Sagittarius
Saturn in Capricorn
Uranus in Aquarius
Neptune in Pisces
When each of the planets appears in the sign they are paired with, they are said to be ruling in dignity. When they are opposite their sign, such as mercury in Sagittarius or Pisces, they are said to be in detriment. Planets can also be in exaltation and fall, though their powers are significantly diminished in either capacity. Thus, the sun is in dignity when it appears in Leo, in detriment when it appears in Aquarius, in exaltation when in Aries and in fall when in Libra.
All of these aspects create the zodiac signs. Without any one part, your sign is incomplete. Each aspect covers a different part of the signs’ personalities and you must be aware of each of them in order to fully understand the signs both as the whole zodiac and the individual signs in particular.