• Dr Keith Bound

The Origins of Western Astrology

Western astrology has a historical rich tapestry going back to the ancient people of Mesopotamia, with the oldest recorded astrological tablets the describe the twelve zodiac signs date back to Babylonian civilization from 2400 BC and were interwoven into Greek methodology 500 BC. With such ancient beginning’s astrology can be found across many diverse cultures providing evidence that astrology is a celestial phenomenon that is deep rooted into our psyche and culture. According to psychologist Carl Jung he perceived astrology as a psychological framework:

‘Astrology is assured of recognition from psychology, without further restrictions, because astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.’

Carl Jung

What are the Zodiac Signs?

The zodiac signs (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces) are taken from the constellations, for example, the Greek word zodiakos kyklos, translates ‘circle of animals’ Each constellation is defined as a pattern of stars, hence the term ‘Star sign’ that is often used to describe the zodiac signs. The English term ‘zodiac’ comes from the Latin word zōdiacus which is a circle divided into twelve 30º equal segments forming the Sun’s observed path around the earth called the ecliptic. The Sun completes one cycle of the twelve zodiac signs in a year which means that the Sun occupies a zodiac sign for approximately one month with the start and end dates fluctuating during some years by one day. The zodiac signs are organised in order based on the time of the year. The first sign of the zodiac is Aries starting on the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring, March 21st and lasts until April 19th. The beginning of Spring marks an important astronomical seasonal event that occurs when the Sun’s ecliptic path intersects the symbolic celestial equator. The sign that follows Aries is Taurus (April 20th – May 21st), followed by Gemini (May 22nd- June 21st). Cancer the fourth sign marks the start of the summer solstice and beginning of summer, June 22nd and last until July 23rd. Leo follows (July 24th -August 23rd), then Virgo (August 24th -September 23rd). Libra marks the autumnal equinox and beginning of Autumn on September 24thlasting until October 23rd. When the Sun enters Libra, the Sun intersects the ecliptic and symbolic celestial equator at the opposite point to Aries marking the halfway point of the zodiac. Scorpio follows (October 24th– November 22nd), then Sagittarius (November 23rd – December 22nd). When the Sun enters Capricorn, it marks the winter solstice and first day of winter on December 23rd and lasts until January 20th. This is opposite point to the Summer Solstice (Cancer). This is followed by Aquarius (January 21st -February 19th) and finally Pisces (February 20th- March 20th). The four astronomical seasons are reversed for locations in the southern hemisphere with Aries starting at the autumnal equinox, Cancer (winter solstice), Libra (spring equinox) and Capricorn (summer solstice). The zodiac signs are always fixed in the order of Aries Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The zodiac signs are defined as character archetypes that tell us about our identity and personality.

The Media Perception of Astrology

Public interest in astrology during the 20th and 21st century has been driven by the public reading about the zodiac sign they were born under and the signs yearly, monthly, weekly or daily forecasts, featured in daily newspapers, lifestyle magazines, online blogs. podcasts or YouTube videos. However, the public’s understanding of astrology via the media is light-hearted fun and limited to astrological forecasts based on the position of the Sun in relation to the twelve zodiac signs, hence why the term ‘Sun sign’ is also widely used in the media. The Sun is used in the popular press because it is the core of the birth chart in western astrology, describing a person’s identity, self-expression and life purpose, but these personal characteristics can only be determined in relations to other planetary influences by their sign, house and aspects.

What Planets are used in Western Astrology?

The planets in our solar system revolve around the Sun and move roughly along the Sun’s ecliptic path around Earth moving through the twelve zodiac signs like the Sun. The Sun and Moon are often referred to in astrology as the luminaries because the Sun is a bright star and the Moon reflects the light of the Sun, even though in astrology the Sun and Moon categorised as planets. The order of the planets are as follows: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Historically Roman mythology named the planets after specific gods and goddesses (e.g. Mercury and Venus). Greek mythology also named the planets after their gods and goddesses that bore the same characteristics as the Roman gods, for example, Venus (Roman mythology) and Aphrodite (Greek mythology) refers to the same planet and characteristics of each goddess. Astrologers today still embrace the psychological expression of the planets through the lens of Greek and Roman mythology and myths. The zodiac signs and planets indicate celestial phenomena that can tell astrologers about our motivations and psychological traits, but astrologers need a point of reference, a system that would allow astrologers to pinpoint where the signs and planets fall in the birth chart to give meaning to life experiences on earth.

The next article will explain the astrological birth chart which reveals your celestial DNA. No one has the same birth chart unless they are born at the same time, location and birth date. The birth chart reveals 99% more information about you that a generalised (daily, weekly, monthly) astrology reading that focuses on a star sign (e.g. Aries). The birth chart reveals your personality, your approach to life, life purpose, finances, education, family life, your talents, relationships, career and friendships.

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