The zodiac's signs - Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and so on -derive from 12 of the many constellations. These 12 are unevenly spaced but give their names to 30° sections along the ecliptic — the imaginary path around the Earth through which the Sun appears to move. In the course of a year, the Sun passes in front of each of these sections in turn.
r _ ^ he origin of the association I between the 12 "constellations" and animals and human heroes is obscure. However, we do know that the stars themselves were once regarded as living beings. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384—322BCE), for example, believed this, while the first person to record it as a fact seems to have been Origen, the head of the Christian school of Alexandria, in about 200CE. So naturally, creatures such as the Lion, the Bull, and the heavenly Twins, which were assigned to the constellations, were also considered to have life and human characteristics too. In different countries these zodiacal creatures had different names — the Greek Tauros (the Bull), for example, was Tora in Iranian, Vrisha in Sanskrit, and Gud.an.na in Babylonian; similarly Scorpios in Greek was Gazdum, vrischika, and Gir.tab.
The signs of the zodiac in this 15th-century illustration are not only shown in relation to their placing in the calendar, but also shown in respect of parts of the body - Aries being the sign of the head, for example, and Taurus being the sign of the neck.
For astrologers of both the ancient world and the modern, the constellations and their respective creatures exert an influence, somewhat mystically, over those born when the Sun was "in" their sign.
knowing your sign
When someone asks, "what sign are you?", it is extremely likely that you will answer by telling them the Sun sign at the time of your birth. The fact that the Sun is said to be "in" a sign at any particular time does not mean that there is any real connection between the Sun and the constellations of Leo, Gemini, Pisces, and the rest. Rather it simply means that the Sun was in a position between the Earth and the section of the ecliptic named after its constellation.
The Sun sign is the astrological sign that we tend to most readily identify as ours, and almost everyone who picks up an astrology book automatically turns first to the Sun sign pages. A considerable number of the assertions the writer makes about the general characteristics of a Leo or a Virgo
seem to be true; others do not. As the Earth revolves, so the 12 constellations on which the zodiac is based rise over the eastern horizon once a day, just like the Sun. The sign crossing the eastern horizon at the time of birth is known as the Rising sign, or Ascendant. Until about 80 years ago the Rising sign was considered probably the most important element of the birth chart, and was said to denote "the outward you" - the "you" recognized by the world. The Sun sign denoted the inward you" - the "you" only those closest to you would recognize. The enormous publicity which Sun signs have received in the past 70 years or so seems to have thrown this rather out of kilter. Many people now know so much about their Sun sign that they unconsciously behave in the way the descriptions suggest, and the Sun sign now seems more accurately to portray the "you" people experience when they first meet you, while the Rising sign represents the "you" known by your parents or your lover. Experienced astrologers know how to make allowances for this ambivalence.
rising & moon signs
What must be recognized is the part the Rising sign plays in portraying the whole individual. If you happened to be born at sunrise, then your Sun and Rising signs will be the same, and you will be instantly recognizable as a Sagittarian or a Libran. However, the position of the Sun at the time of birth is only one of many factors in the full horoscope or birth chart. we are all a subtle combination of all 12 signs, stressed in different ways, and overlaid by other important factors that combine to make our horoscope individual to us.
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