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An Introduction to Astrology

What is Astrology?

When people consider astrology they generally think of the signs of the zodiac and, in particular, the sign that corresponds to their date of birth. But what does in mean to say that you are a Capricorn or a Leo? Your "birth sign," "sun sign" or "star sign" is, in fact, the sign the sun was in at the time you were born, and astrologers believe that this influences your fundamental nature and helps determine the type of person you are. (What it means to say the sun is "in" a sign is discussed in Signs of the Zodiac.)

From the earth, the sun, moon and planets all appear to travel through a particular band of the sky called the zodiac, and astrologers divide this into twelve equal parts, the signs with which most people are familiar. The sun is in each sign for about a month at a time, roughly at the same times every year, and these dates are shown for each of the signs below.

Aries
Aries
The Ram
March 21 - April 20
Taurus
Taurus
The Bull
April 21 - May 20
Gemini
Gemini
The Twins
May 21 - June 21
Cancer
Cancer
The Crab
June 22 - July 22
Leo
Leo
The Lion
July 23 - August 22
Virgo
Virgo
The Virgin
August 23 - September 22
Libra
Libra
The Scales
September 23 - October 22
Scorpio
Scorpio
The Scorpion
October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius
Sagittarius
The Archer
November 22 - December 21
Capricorn
Capricorn
The Goat
December 22 - January 19
Aquarius
Aquarius
The Water-bearer
January 20 - February 18
Pisces
Pisces
The Fishes
February 19 - March 20

Click on any of the signs to find out what astrology says about individuals born with the sun in that sign. If you're not sure which sign you are then check your birthday against the dates given, bearing in mind that if you were born near one of the change-over points then you are "on the cusp" and need to check with an astrologer to find your exact sign.

Interpreting the position of the sun alone is obviously a very crude measure, dividing the entire population of the earth into just twelve categories, and this is one of the reasons why the kinds of horoscopes found in newspapers and magazines are not of much serious use. If the time of birth is known then a personal horoscope can be produced that interprets the positions of all the astrological planets and the aspects or angles between them.

A horoscope based on the time of birth produces a personal reading about the character, strengths, weaknesses and potentials of a subject, but astrologers can refine this even further if the place of birth is known as well. In this case, the system of houses can be used to determine the important rising sign of the individual, and to apply the influences of the planets to specific areas of life.

Once a birth chart has been drawn up, ongoing predictions can be made for any given time by comparing the positions of the planets and houses then to those at the time of birth. Similar chart comparisons can be made between the natal charts of individuals to perform relationship or compatibility readings.

Does it Work?

Well, astrology is a fascinating subject, and it's an important part of the history of many civilizations, and of science and philosophy. It is not merely a divinatory tool, but an effectual psychological one, and the attributes and symbolism of the signs and planets are fairly central to western esotericism. So astrology certainly "works" in this sense, in that it is useful. (Other cultures have their own, equally absorbing versions, Chinese astrology being a prime example.)

But do the motions of the planets influence our characters and fates from the day we are born and every day thereafter? Science says "nay," astrologers "yea," and the rest of us respond with a shrug of the shoulders. We know little enough of the wide universe that the ancient adage "As Above, So Below" seems about right, though not quite in the way the astrologers of old intended.