(*See below for zodiac sign dates.)
What are the zodiac signs? The ancient Babylonians created the zodiac wheel by first splitting our sky into four sections designated by the yearly equinoxes and solstices (the turning points of the four yearly seasons). Each of these four sections of sky were split into 3 sections measuring 30 degrees each. This gives us a full 360-degree zodiac circle with 12 equal sections of 30 degrees each. Each 30-degree section is one zodiac sign, for a total of 12 zodiac signs (12, not 13). These 12 zodiac signs are not star constellations. The zodiac signs are 30-degree sections of space that were mathematically calculated in a way that was, and still is, intimately connected to our yearly seasons. (A Short History of Astrology)
The zodiac circle always assigns zero degrees of Aries (Aries, the zodiac sign, not the star constellation) to the Vernal Equinox (the Spring Equinox, or the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere). This zodiac wheel, also known as the tropical zodiac or western zodiac, is still accurate because we always align/begin it, as the ancients Greeks did, with the first day of Spring. This not a mistake. The zodiac wheel is intimately aligned with our Earth’s seasons. (This is an important fact to recognize. Some people today fail to recognize this fact, and so they erroneously claim that the zodiac wheel is misaligned. They do not understand that the Earth’s axial precession, or “precession of the equinoxes” does not impair the zodiac wheel.)
The ancient Babylonians used the constellations that appeared in the general area of each zodiac sign as placeholders. They designated 12 constellations to represent the 12 zodiac signs in the sky. The star constellations, with their varying degrees and sizes, are not the actual zodiac signs. These constellations were named after the zodiac signs they represent, not the other way around!
There were no cute animals or mythical creatures associated with them yet. Different energies were observed to correlate with the position of the planets in different sections of the heavens. These 12 signs became 12 different archetypes, each with their own characteristics. (Notice how the 12 archetypes recur in history: 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 sons of Abraham, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, 12 Successors to the Prophet Muhammad). The 12 archetypes, or zodiac signs, already had their traits before the ancient Greeks attached the popular symbols to them. The Greeks had the uncanny brilliance of choosing symbols that parallel the sign traits very closely. So now, when we think of the sign of Aries, we think of a ram; when we think of Sagittarius, we think of an archer, and so on. This lesson will not delve into the mythological stories behind the choice of symbols for the signs. We will give a topical, general description of the archetype of each sign.
To clarify, the following descriptions of the zodiac signs refer to the archetype of the sign itself, regardless of which planet is in the sign. We will describe the zodiac sign as if it were a person, with characteristics. In other words, the following descriptions do not specifically or exclusively apply to people with the Sun in that sign. This is because the Sun sign is not the only defining characteristic of a person. While the Sun sign is important, it is by no means the complete story of our personal profile.
Our Moon sign, Rising sign, Mercury sign, Venus sign, and all the rest are just as important in giving us a complete picture of ourselves. We all have the entire zodiac in our charts – all 12 zodiac signs. For this reason, it is important to learn the traits of all the signs. Planets in the signs will be expressed according to the traits of the sign they are in. Thus, the zodiac signs modify the planets. Each zodiac sign is like a stained-glass window through which the planets must pass to manifest in our lives. Each "window" is different. And different planets through the same "window" will also be different. (For example, the Sun in Aries is not the same as the Moon in Aries).
Click on each zodiac sign constellation to learn about it.
* Sun Sign Dates
The Sun's apparent path through the zodiac coincides with our 12-month year, almost exactly. Our calendar months do not coincide precisely with the actual celestial month. We are out of sync by a little bit of time (hence, Leap Year). This means that the Sun moves into a new zodiac sign approximately every month, anywhere between 19th and the 23rd of our month. That group of days is called a cusp, meaning the span of days in which the Sun may change sign (there is also another meaning for "cusp" in astrology). However, being born during those days does NOT automatically mean that you have 2 Sun signs (a common misconception). Birth charts are calculated using astronomical ephemerides that chart the exact time of a Sun sign change for every year. If you were born between the 19th and 23rd of any month, you must check an ephemeris to see exactly where the Sun was at the time of your birth (or use our Sun Sign Calculator).
Here are the approximate dates for Zodiac Sun Signs:
- Aries: approximately March 20 – April 22
- Taurus: approximately April 19 – May 22
- Gemini: approximately May 20 – June 22
- Cancer: approximately June 20 – July 22
- Leo: approximately July 21 – August 22
- Virgo: approximately August 21 – September 22
- Libra: approximately September 21 – October 22
- Scorpio: approximately October 21 – November 22
- Sagittarius: approximately November 21 – December 22
- Capricorn: approximately December 20 – January 22
- Aquarius: approximately January 19 – February 20
- Pisces: approximately February 17 – March 21