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The Myth of Sun Sign Astrology

Updated: Jan 4

If you’ve ever participated in a conversation about astrology, the question that is usually asked is, “What is your sign?” The implication here is, “In what sign was the sun sitting at the time of your birth?”



If you were asked to describe what oranges taste like, how would you describe them? Some of your descriptions might include concepts such as sweet, juicy, acidic, citrus-like, maybe mouth-watering. As a result of a few of these descriptive words, should one assume that all oranges taste the same? What if one isn’t quite ripe? What if one is overripe? What if one is more bitter compared to others? What if one is dry and shriveled up inside?Would we still assume that it is accurate to say they all taste the same?


There’s an adage about asking three different blind men to feel various parts of an elephant, and from there, describe the elephant’s appearance. The man assigned to the body might describe the elephant as being very large, bulky and muscular. The one who assigned the trunk might describe the elephant as a narrow, flexible, water-spouting tube with an opening on one end. The one assigned the legs might describe it as being thick posts with hooves on the bottom.

Would they all be correct? To the extent that they are each describing a part of the elephant’s body, they would be correct. But taken separately, they give a distorted view of the entire picture.

Is the description of the bitter or dry orange inaccurate because it doesn’t describe a ripe orange?



How, you might ask, is this related to astrology?


If you’ve ever participated in a conversation about astrology, the question that is usually asked is, “What is your sign?” The implication here is, “In what sign was the sun sitting at the time of your birth?”


For those of you who have ever looked at a natal chart,you’ll notice that it is multi-dimensional. It consists of all the known planets plotted on a circle that astrologers refer to as a wheel. Similar to a clock, the wheel is divided into 12 divisions, called houses. The house placement of each planet is relevant and varies, based on the time of birth.For every four minutes of time that elapses, there is a rotation of one degree of a sign of the zodiac at any given point on the wheel.


As an example of the relevance of the time of birth, kindly consider the following. Early on in my practice as an astrologer, I was once asked by a grandmother to tell her the difference between her twin grandchildren, who were born several minutes apart. Upon observation, I told her that Twin A, who had planets in the 12th house, the house of imprisonment and institutionalization, may endure suffering that Twin B would not have to endure, since Twin B did not have any planets in this house. It turned out that Twin A had been in an automobile accident and ended up debilitated to the extent that he would be wheel-chair bound for the duration of his life.


The difference of the twins’ birth times were only minutes apart. So, imagine how different a chart looks when cast for the same day but 12 hours apart. The planets would sit in opposite positions on the wheel, or,using the analogy of the clock, planets sitting between 9 and 10 o’clock would move to between 4 and 5 o’clock, if the chart was cast for 12 hours later. The difference would be akin to having one blind man observe an elephant standing on its legs versus another blind man describing the nature of the elephant lying on its back, with its legs up in the air.



The Natal Chart



A chart drawn on paper may also have lines on it, showing the angular relationship of each planet to one another, or put another way,showing how many degrees apart each planet is from every other planet.


It may also list such things as the distribution of the planets in the elements: fire, earth, air and water, as well as the distribution of the planets in what are called qualities: cardinal, fixed and mutable.


Further, it may also list what astrologers call “dignities.”This term connotes the strength of the planets, based upon whether they are in signs that are compatible with the nature of the planet or totally incompatible.


Upon moving the chart forward, astrologers also employ numerous other techniques. The most common is to observe the transits, which is where the planets are now or at any given point in the future. The angular relationship of the transits to the natal planets (planets at birth), plus the house in which the transiting planets reside, are also taken into account.


Another common technique that astrologers use is a concept called secondary progressions. This concept, mentioned in the bible as well as other religious texts, suggests counting each day after the day of one’s birth as symbolic of a year of life, or in other words, a day for a year. These progressed positions are also factored in to our observations.


Additionally, some astrologers utilize what are called solar returns. A solar return is a chart in and of itself and is considered a blueprint for the coming fiscal birth year. A solar return is cast every year and is derived by plotting the position of all the planets based on the moment when the sun returns to the exact position at which it was sitting at birth.Hence, the term “solar return.”  


There are also many sub-categories within astrology, many of which place more emphasis on lunar cycles or the movement of the outer planets,rather than simply the position of the sun. Some astrologers look at charts of nations,businesses, cities and states. Some astrologers focus on the stock market,others on sporting events, others on meteorological events, and even others on health and medicine.


All this is to say that when one is discussing the field of astrology, it extends far beyond the position of simply the sun. After all,does it make sense to divide the entire planet’s population into 12 divisions and assume that a 12th of the population will all possess the same traits and will have the same experiences over a given period of time?


So, the next time you read a “horoscope” column or a sun sign column, it is wise to take it with a grain of salt, or perhaps even a box of salt. And the next time someone asks you under which sign you were born, it might just be fitting to say “Yield”, “Stop” or “Steep Curve Ahead.”


And this, my friends, is why, when I write a summary of astrological phenomena, I may not break it down into how it impacts each individual sun sign. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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