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13 or 14 Zodiacal Constellations

The 13th Sign of the Zodiac

Ophiuchus is on the ecliptic and should be considered as part of the zodiac.

Ophiuchus is on the ecliptic and should be considered as part of the zodiac.

This star map of the constellation Ophiuchus shows the principle stars.

This star map of the constellation Ophiuchus shows the principle stars.

An Alternative View

Many people can easily name the 12 traditional signs of the zodiac. This is the parlance of contemporary western astrological description. There are however, two constellations that impinge upon the zodiacal ecliptic, one of them very significantly. These are Orion and Ophiuchus. Further, all of the signs are not 30 degrees wide uniformly. The uniformity is a largely unspoken consensus at this juncture that most people have come to accept without question. Yet, when we look at a sky map of the constellations and the boundaries now agreed upon for them, we find some interesting discrepancies. Some overlap but off the ecliptic. For the measure of each sign, many take the ecliptic as it cuts through the starry dynamo. This is one of two axes in the sky and for this particular chapter, we look at the ecliptic.

The ecliptic is universal around the world for defining seasons and the passage of the sun, moon and planets. Each culture has different seasons and different stories for the zodiac, but they are universal in the position of the ecliptic. For our western purposes, we define the four seasons and the twelve constellations of the zodiac. In some more ancient systems, there are thirteen signs, but this was reduced to twelve. The Maya for example, have thirteen signs, but they are laid out completely differently than ours. They also have a zodiac and what they call the celestial tree that is defined by the galactic plane. Thus they have three different systems working all at once. We have one, but this needs some examination. Looking at the real layout of the star patterns that make up the zodiac and the boundaries thereof, we find in the argument of the ecliptic the following:

Zodiac sign width along the ecliptic

Constellation = Width in deg - Comments

Aries = 23 degrees

Taurus = 37 degrees

Orion = 3 degrees - Summer solstice (2010-12) part <1 degree south of ecliptic (Heart-of-Sky)

Gemini = 30 degrees

Cancer = 18 degrees

Leo = 41 degrees

Virgo = 42 degrees

Libra = 25 degrees

Scorpio = 5 degrees - Lies mostly S of ecliptic & is almost 30 degrees overlapping Sag & Ophiuchus

Ophiuchus = 20 degrees

Sagittarius = 36 degrees

Capricorn = 28 degrees

Aquarius = 20 degrees - Overlaps Capricorn by 20 degrees N. Of ecliptic

Pisces = 35 degrees

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For the sake of argument, the three degrees of Orion's upper part can be said to be not contained in the ecliptic, but the north most boundary lies a mere degree below the ecliptic. Orion marks the point of the summer solstice and also the important “Heart of Sky” in Mayan cosmology. Also important is the position of Ophiuchus near the winter solstice, which itself lies in the constellation of Sagittarius. We may be able to dismiss Orion, but we cannot dismiss Ophiuchus between the arrow of Sagittarius and the tail of Scorpio that occupies a full 20 degrees of the ecliptic, whereas Scorpio's tail occupies only 5 degrees. There is one other consideration for the “Heart of Sky” and that has to do with the orbital inclinations of the planets and moon. Though it is true that the Sun never passes through Orion, it does graze the part closest to the ecliptic. The moon however, has an orbital inclination to the ecliptic of about 5 degrees. It does pass through the “Heart of Sky” on a cyclical basis. When the moon is “below the ecliptic” in its orbit as far as us northerners are concerned and it is lined up with the summer half of the ecliptic, then it will pass directly through Orion. The moons nodes have an 18.6 year cycle, which means that when the moon passes through the descending node on its way to the “Heart of Sky”, it will be in that 9.8 year part of the cycle where it will do so during most of that length of time. The cycle where the moon passes through Orion began on December 21st 2010 and will do so over the next 9.8 years. When the moon appears above the ecliptic when near the “Heart of Sky”, then the moon never enters Orion and that too has a 9.8 year period. The same is true of all the other planets that have orbital inclinations in relation to the sun-earth ecliptic. Thus, all the planets will pass through the “Heart of Sky” when the orbital alignment and their “season” is in place for that to occur. We will examine all of this in other pages and give a range of dates for each.

When we thus depart form convention, there are other considerations that enter into the picture. This is perhaps one major reason why the equal division of twelve signs was adopted. When looking at the more complex picture, the length of zodiacal ages change, few being equal in extent. The dates for the start of one zodiacal period also differ from what is commonly stated regardless of whether we consider the tropical or sidereal points of view. For the current epoch, the summer solstice lies almost exactly over the boundary between Orion and Gemini, or as more popularly accepted, Gemini and Taurus just on the Taurus (Orion) side. We can thus divide the dates from that location, with Gemini marking the 22nd day of June in the Sidereal consideration. The Heart-of-Sky location in Orion marks the 21st day of June. If Gemini thus begins on the 22nd day of June, it ends on the 21st day of July. Cancer commences according to this, on the 22nd of July and ends on August 7th. Leo follows on the 8th of August and runs through to September 19th. On the 20th of September, Virgo commences and continues through to Octobe4r 31st. Libra commences on November the 1st and ends on the 26th. Scorpio runs from November 27th through to the December 1st. Ophiuchus commences on December 2nd and runs to December 21st. Sagittarius commences on December 22nd and ends on January 28th. Capricorn starts on January 29th and ends on February 26th. From there, Aquarius marks the position of the sun from February 27th through to March 15th. Pisces starts on March 16th and runs through to April 20th. Aries begins on April 21st to May 14th. Finally, Taurus commences on May 15th and carries through to June 21st, right over the heart of sky.

As the orbit of the earth changes year to year, there are variables such as year to day variables and the precession of the equinox over the long run. No two years will have the same boundary days and generally speaking, the ages precess backward by a day every 72 years, which is why we specify the current epoch of 2010-11 as the mark for this discourse. That being said, we now have to consider the role of Ophiuchus in the context of the Zodiac as there are many who are born under the influence of Ophiuchus, as we all are to a greater or lesser extent.

Ophiuchus; the serpent bearer is wrestling with the serpent in the myth and is the inspiration behind the caduceus of modern medicine where two serpents are entwined around a pole or cross. But as a sign of consideration for a horoscope for those born between December 2nd to 21st, astrologers have gathered together a series of traits that would match such a person that include:

  • Seeker of peace and wisdom
  • Attractor of good luck and jealousy as a consequence
  • Interpreter of dreams and has vivid premonitions
  • One who reaches for the stars in mind and action
  • Wearer of plaid, which is a strange piece of interpretation from a now obscure source
  • Has lofty ideals such as religious or social
  • Seeks peace and harmony
  • Doctor of medicine or science, naturopath, aspirations of healing the ills of man
  • Adds, increases, joins, or gathers together
  • Poetical, inventive nature
  • Seeks higher education and wisdom and may be self educated
  • Overseer, lead-hand or supervisor of work
  • Fame – infamy
  • Tax assessor, or actuary
  • Astrological talents, intuitive arts
  • May be from or have a large family, but apt to be separated from them when young
  • Foresight and good fortune to benefit from hard times
  • Secret enemies in family or among close associations
  • high position possible in life expected depending on planetary aspects
  • Highest fame and legend comes after death
  • Wise, genius mentality
  • Likes to wear vibrant colours
  • Receives the attention of those in authority

All other astrological considerations would still hold. The Heart-of-Sky for June 21st and from the 20th through to the 22nd, hold special significance, especially for the Mayan mindset. From here we can explore what influence various world paradigms have to offer by way of location and time.

The 13th zodicacal constellation

An elegant view of the zodical year

The long view


William J. Prest (author) from Vancouver, Canada on February 13, 2014:

There is the sidereal sky, what actually happens and is up there when you look through a telescope or align stars with a medicine wheel. Then there is the tropical zodiac, now out of synch with the sidereal by sabout 25 degrees. Both have their applications as one is what is really visible in the heavens and the other tied to the seasons of the earth in the northern hemisphere. Our calendar is not very good either, nor accurate and has to be constantly fine tuned. A better system was invented by the Maya sky watchers, whose cities were all aligned to the stars. So are some of ours BTY, such as Washington DC and Vatican City. The Hindus have 27 mansions-houses in their horoscopes and the Chinese 28. The Maya have a much different cosmology/cosmogony than ours. My lack of response was not "sore losing" as you suggest, but a concession to the fact that until now, there was not much worthy of responding toward. There are many cosmogonies in the world, past and present. Why don't you construct a medicine wheel in the high and dry regions of your country and have a long look for yourself. There are instructions on Hubpages on how to construct one to observe the night sky. You may even come up with your own cosmogony. Meanwhile, I am now exploring the deep science of contemporary cosmology as seen by Einstein, Tesla, Planck, Hawking, et al.

david on February 13, 2014:

Sounds like you cant handle being wrong lol. The actual constellation has to be in the sky to have the affects lol someone is NOT a sag if they're born under the real week of scorpio

Ben david on December 16, 2013:

Its actually a telling of a prophecy not art

Raygirl on May 28, 2013:

The 12 zodiacal months are also in line with our 12 months in the calender. Especially if you believe in sidereal astrology. 12 signs for twelve months of the year. Added, 12 signs help with aspect orbs in our natal chart. They are more accurate when there is a complete wheel with each sign having an opposing sign, square sign, and trine sign, allowing for an astrological connection. How exactly would Ophiuchus and Orion fit in that picture? It wouldn't. We have to consider more than just the sun's position in the sky when considering astrological signs and whether or not they should be considered a sign in the astrological/"zodiac" wheel. There are other planetary placements, as well as invisible lines such as the North and South Node and part of fortune. Added there are twelve houses represented as our Earth signs, starting with the rising /Ascendant sign on the Eastern horizon. We could as 14 houses, but again, the orbs would be widely spaced apart with a dis-unified setting for the natal aspects. Scorpio would no longer be completely opposite would in some cases be opposite Ophiuchus. Gemini opposite in some cases Ophiuchus. This would be an issue, as it would make a bent, dysfunctional wheel. Have you ever seen a wheel that was bent outward on one side? Because of that bent part, the wheel does not roll smoothly causing the ride to go in many different directions. Get the picture? Astronomers should not use science to prove something astrological. Astrology is more of an art; more geographical even. Psychological even. Astronomy is the lesser part. It has a divine kind of learning. :)

Raygirl on May 28, 2013:

There is just one problem...astrologically these signs are not considered. tropical astrology no longer goes by actual positions of the stars. Modern astrology utilizes the month of the signs. or example between the month of late April and early may is the month of Taurus. That means this month is the month of growth and peace and this will influence the way we interact on Earth. In conclusion, although influenced by the constellations in the sky, in astrology they are representative of the 12 divisions of solstice and equinoxes. This is why Ophiuchus, although visible on the Ecliptic, as well as Orion, does not fit with the seasonal division between the months and the modes (cardinal, Fixed, Mutable) parts of the seasons within. If you do 12 divided by three you gain four. Four seasons times 3 modes per season equals 12. There for Ophiuchus and Orion disrupt the divine flow. Hence why the Greeks of old probably never considered Ophiuchus nor Orion as astrological signs. After all the serpent-bearer was cast out of the heavens by Zeus in the original mythology. This is because he tried to kill the gods by making them mortal. Ophiuchus must remain "cast out" as he will only bring disruption to the divine course.

JP on December 03, 2011:

These are the proper dates for the Astronomical Zodiac.

Capricorn - Jan 20 to Feb 15

Aquarius - Feb 16 to Mar 11

Pisces - Mar 12 to Apr 18

Aries - Apr 19 to May 13

Taurus - May 14 to Jun 20

Gemini - Jun 21 to Jul 20

Cancer - Jul 21 to Aug 10

Leo - Aug 11 to Sep 15

Virgo - Sep 16 to Oct 30

Libra - Oct 31 to Nov 22

Scorpius - Nov 23 to Nov 29

Ophiuchus - Nov 30 to Dec 17

Sagittarius - Dec 18 to Jan 19

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