“OMFG I’m Not An Aries?!”

“OMFG I’m Not An Aries?!”

News?  Really?

There’s been a lot of talk the last few days about the “recent discovery” regarding the zodiac.  People are wondering whether their sign has changed.  The answer is no.  Before we get into it, let’s get a few things straight-

1.  This is not a recent discovery.  This phenomenon was documented in 280 BC by a Greek fellow named Aristarchus, and was quite likely understood quite a bit earlier. It’s called “precession.”  Astrologers have been aware of this for over 2000 years- the entire time that astrology’s been around.

2. The zodiac used in Western astrology is not based on the position of constellations.  You’re still an Aries.

The Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs

The zodiac used in Western astrology is not based on the constellations.  It uses the Tropical zodiac, which is based on a 12 fold division of the Sun-Earth cycle, from the Earth’s point of view (geocentric).  So yes, you’re still an Aries.

In fact, the reason that Western astrology uses the Tropical zodiac is because it doesn’t move over time.  It’s anchored by the solstices and the equinoxes.

Indian (Vedic) astrology, as well as some Western schools of astrology, use the constellations rather than the division of the Sun-Earth cycle to define the zodiac.  The zodiac that uses the constellations is called the Sidereal zodiac.  Astrologers have been having discussions about the relative merits of the Tropical and Sidereal zodiacs for quite some time.

The confusion comes in because the 12 divisions of the Sun-Earth cycle are named after the 12 largest constellations on the ecliptic.  Astrologers are aware of the difference between the Tropical zodiac (Sun-Earth) and the Sidereal zodiac (constellation-based), and have been.  The changing relationship between the two zodiacs is called “precession” and it was documented by Aristarchus of Samos in 280 BC.  That’s a long time ago.  This is not news.

The Age Of Something

One particularly interesting thing is that the changing relationship between the Tropical (Sun-Earth) zodiac and the Sidereal (constellation based) zodiac is actually the mechanic behind one of the most widely known astrological concepts- the Age of Aquarius.

The relationship between the two zodiacs changes at the rate of about 1 degree every 72 years.  Since 1 zodiac sign is 30 degrees, that means it takes 2,160 years for the zodiacs to be one sign off.  These 2,160 year periods are what define the ages.

Each age takes its name from the constellation the Sun is in front of during the Vernal Equinox.  In the Tropical Zodiac, the Vernal Equinox defines the 1st degree of Aries.  So we’re looking at what constellation the first degree of Aries overlaps with.  Right now it’s Pisces, so it’s the “Age of Pisces.”  In about 150 years, the first degree of Aries will overlap with the constellation Aquarius and it will be the “Age of Aquarius.”  Get it?

What’s A Sign?

While we’re talking about “Signs,” we should probably talk about how astrologers use them.  The core of astrology is the planets.  Their movements and geometrical relationships, from Earth’s point of view, is the most important part of astrology.

Signs are used to add detail about how these movements and relationships between the planets will translate into action down here on earth.  The zodiac is a filter we place on the planet’s arrangements in order to get more  information.  However, the filter most people are acquainted with, the Tropical zodiac, is not the only one.  As mentioned above, there’s also the Sidereal Zodiac.  And more!  There are also filters based on the Lunar cycle, which divide the sky into 27 different sections.

You Are Not Your Sun Sign.

Part of the recent craziness is because people think that astrology defines people by a single sign, be it Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.  This inaccurate.

The idea that “I’m an Aries” is a radical simplification of how astrology actually looks at a person. If horoscope columns tell you that you’re an Aries, it refers to the portion of the sky that the Sun was in when you were born. The Sun was in Aries.  But astrology also looks at the position of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and a host of other bodies and points, such as the Moon’s ascending and descending nodes, Pluto, Chiron and others.  And guess what?  All of these bodies and points are in a sign!  Most people have planets in 6 or more of them, in fact.  Not only does any one person’s astrological chart take into account all of these bodies, it also looks at the geometrical relationships between them.  Astrology does not, and has never, defined a person with a single label.  Instead, astrology represents a person with a chart full of dynamic complexity.  You know, how people actually are.

Simplicity’s Sake

So how did people get  the idea that they’re just a single sign?

It’s impossible to know where someone’s Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc by simply knowing what day of the year they were born.  All you can tell based on the day of the year is what sign the Sun was in.  So when people write astrology columns, they use the only piece of astrological information they have about their readers- the sign that their Sun is in.  The Sun is a particularly useful piece of information, and so an astrologer can make some statements based on the Sun’s position relative to the planet’s current configurations- horoscopes.  Although horoscopes can be fun and useful, astrology based only on the Sun’s position is a radical simplification.  It doesn’t begin to represent the complex dynamics of a person’s entire astrological chart.

Hope this was helpful.


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Austin Coppock is a writer, esotericist and astrologer based in Ashland, OR. He published paperback Almanacs from 2011-15 but began posting his prognostications online last year, referring to his collection of weekly, monthly, yearly essays and daily delineations as “The Online Almanac”. This work is made possible by his supporters on Patreon. Austin was President of the non-profit organization “Association for Young Astrologers” from 2012-2016. His most recent book is “36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans”, published by Three Hands Press.


  1. Sarah 12 years ago

    Thank you so much for the clarification on all of these matters.

  2. Codee G 12 years ago

    Dude I was watching the local “news” and was like no way have I gotten to know all these people and they are now seemingly different. Like you said you have many aspects in your astrology indeed! Yet I couldn’t see everyone saying oh well now I am… am… hahah just because the freaking tv says so. Of course we have the reincarnation of The Baron a.k.a Austin all us sheep can once again sleep. Important for those who don’t have a hoof, paw or claw in astrology yet…



  3. Jackie Orchard 12 years ago

    I like the break down. When I say progreession and equinoxes I lose everyone. As it stands now few muggles get the devide between Astronomy and Astrology. I feel very luck to wear the 3-D glasses tilted up. Astrology is a language and an amazing tool. It will forever astonish me how under valued it is!

  4. scientific astrology 12 years ago

    good article. the stupidity of the masses is really frightening. http://hubpages.com/hub/A-Scientific-Understanding-of-Astrology

  5. jonquil 12 years ago

    wonderful explanation! thank you. plus which you have my daughters’ reaction down cold.

  6. Vedic Astrology 12 years ago

    Nice Article, Thanks for sharing the post, Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Michael 6 years ago

    I always find it interesting when people freak out over this “news.” In fact the same story seems to regurgitate every other year. Currently the same story is floating around like its “news.” I always laugh and look at my friends and say “even if this WAS true…once you bake a cake, you CANNOT UNBAKE IT.” haha!

  8. Soulart Siren 6 years ago

    I think it’s good for publicity. Soon even the average jo will know the difference between sidereal and tropical and it might open up a staggering view of their place in the world as seen through the lens of an ancient perspective.
    Funniest title ever. 6 years later.

  9. MafiaMittens 4 years ago

    Yo I’ve been thinking of whether I should comment this or not cuz it’s been nearly 5+ years since this has been posted… but here it goes..
    You posted this in your article “OMFG I’m not an Aries?”:
    “It’s impossible to know where someone’s Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc, by simply knowing what day of the year they were born. All you can tell based on the day of the year is what sign the Sun was in. So when people write astrology columns, they use the only piece of astrological information they have about their readers- the sign that their Sun is in.”
    Actually you are wrong. It is true that a huge amount of people are like “sun sign alone says all about a person” which is wrong. But, astrologers have ALWAYS considered “the positions of all planets on the day of a person’s birth” since a long time ago. Not JUST the sun sign. Especially in India, this is nothing new.
    I’m not saying astrologers predicted exactly the person’s past/future or anything. All I’m saying is, sun sign is not the only thing an astrologer considers. IF an astrologer tells you that sun sign is all that matters, that person is not an astrologer.
    I’m not even an astrologer, I just have astrology as a hobby, yet I know this much.
    You can even tell me your birth details (time, place, year) and I can give you EXACT details of planetary positions AT the exact time of your birth. For real, not kidding.
    [By “planets”, I mean those which are considered as planets IN vedic astrology.
    Ex: –>Sun is a star according to science, but in vedic astrology it’s viewed as a planet.
    –>Rahu/Ketu are just north/south nodes of Earth in science, but they are viewed as (shadowy) planets in vedic astrology.]
    I can’t predict your present/past/future once again, I don’t mean ANYTHING like that. So don’t misunderstand.
    BUT I can at least, tell you all the planets’ positions because there are methods/ways to calculate them since the ancient days. And if anything, the modern science helps us locate the planets’ positions EVEN more accurately than back then.
    I hope u are still alive and hope u read this….cuz once again, I don’t even know why I’m commenting this here… it’s been like 8 years since u posted this x”D

    • Author
      Austin Coppock 4 years ago

      Day of the year, as in one of 365. Not the day on a specific year. Of course you can tell where things are if the year is specified.


  1. […] Oh, and if you’re concerned that your sign has changed please read Austin Coppock’s wonderfully clear and concise page on this matter here. […]

  2. […] There are actually 13 signs, NASA said so. What do you have to say for yourself? So here's the thing. Ophiuchus, the "13th sign", is a constellation. Signs and constellations are not the same thing. Constellations are named groups of stars which vary widely in size, zodiac signs are equal 30 degree divisions of the ecliptic. While we're at it, astrologers know about the precession of the equinoxes, too, and have the whole time – about 2000 years. The zodiac you're probably most familiar with is the tropical zodiac, whose starting point is anchored on the spring equinox. The sidereal zodiac is anchored on the fixed stars, which shift slowly through time (precession). Neither zodiac perfectly lines up with the constellations, and neither ever did. So no, there are not 13 signs, and your sign didn't change. This is the short version: please see this long version that expounds the technical details of this topic. […]

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