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Does Planetary Position Have Anything to Do with Astrological Signs?

written by: Kyra•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 1/27/2011

Astrology has long thought to have been the combination of planetary position and astrological signs. If you look deeper into the equation however, you will see this is not entirely true.

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    Do the Planets Really Line Up?

    Planetary alignment, means the planets of the Solar System are in a straight line to each other. If you were able to look down at the Solar System from above, using the Sun as your center point, the planets would be in a completely straight line. This is what most people think of when they hear the phrase planetary alignment. But, in fact, the planets never form a truly straight line with each other. So does this mean your astrological sign is connected with the planetary position? Well not really, it has more to do with the movement of the stars' position in the sky and interestingly enough, the seasons.

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    Is Astrology Affected By the Planets?

    Astrology actually has two different systems, each followed by different regions on the planet. The Western world follows the Tropical chart, and the Eastern world follows the Sidereal chart. The beginning of astrology can be traced as far back as Babylon 1645 BCE, and was based on observations of the positioning of the stars and planets.

    In ancient times, any big event occurring on Earth would have a direct correlation to the position of the planets and stars. If a large event happened, people would look up to see what was happening in their sky, deciding on which deity might be the cause of the event. During this time in history astronomy and astrology were interchangeable, meaning they were in essence the same thing.

    At the invention of the telescope and through scientists like Copernicus, astronomy and astrology began to diverge. Those who studied and learned what the movement of the Moon, Sun and the stars meant, became astronomers. Those that relied on the stars for calculations to know when an event may happen, became astrologers.

    St Marks Venice Clock 

    WikiMedia Commons/Marcelo Teson/1 June 2006

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    Have the Astrological Signs Changed?

    That will depend on which chart you follow, but in fact, they have not changed at all - at least not recently. In order to understand this, we must go back to the point of two different chart systems, Tropical and Sidereal.

    If you live in the Western world, for example North America and Europe, you most likely follow the Tropical chart and your Zodiac sign remains the same. The Tropical chart is calculated using the seasonal Equinoxes and Solstices, not by the stars themselves per say. In fact, even though the zodiac signs are named after constellations, this chart is not based on the position of planets and stars at all, and it tends to be off by an average of 24.5 days.

    Sidereal traditions technically hold more accurate calculations and are based on the movement of the planets and stars. This chart added the 13th sign, Ophiuchus, back in 130 BC. Sidereal monitors the Earth’s shifting axis and how the planet’s position has changed and continues to change over time. The astrology chart compensates for this shifting, since astrologers keep a close eye on the actual position of the planets and stars.

    So in fact, the zodiac signs have not changed at all, only the awareness of the signs has changed. The Western world is only just now discovering there is another astrology system more closely focused on the planets and stars.

    Zodiac woodcut Beit Alpha 

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    East Tennessee State University: Planetary Alignments: Facts or Fiction? Dr. Donald Luttermoser:

    Cyber Witchcraft: Astrology, Sidereal Vs. Tropical:

    OneReed: The Zodiac: Sidereal Vs. Tropical, Bruce Scofield:

    The Times of India: 13th Zodiac Sign: Nothing Ophiuchus About it, Jyothi Prabhkar: