Astrology is a fascinating subject. While almost everyone knows his or her astrological sign, they are not always familiar with the personal characteristics associated with it. Those who turn their interest into more understanding of the subject itself will gain some truly unique insights about themselves and others. I have rarely encountered a person totally immune from wanting to know more about astrology.

So, what is astrology?

Astrology is the study of cycles. The sun, moon, and planets move in their own time and in their own space according to individual cycles. Similarly ordained, the earth and all life upon its surface carries forward in complicated, perhaps never-to-be-fully understood patterns that make up the cosmos. The Greeks believed this enthusiastically. Some of the greatest thinkers in the history of mankind did not at all think it unreasonable to study planetary cycles in order to gain a better understanding of how mankind in general and people as individuals, fit into the universal cosmos. The Greeks assembled the body of knowledge upon which modern astrology is based. They applied their advanced understanding of astronomy and mathematics to the descriptions handed down from the astrologers/astronomers (there was no distinction in those days) of ancient Babylonia.

Babylonia can be found today as modern Iraq on a map. Astrology in Babylonian times was for the purpose of weather and natural disaster prediction, as well as predicting what would befall the King, his subjects, and his land. The earliest known astrological records were unearthed in Nineveh (modern day Mosul, Iraq) in 1853. The records are in the form of seventy cuneiform tablets, dating from about 1600 to 1000 B.C.E., and are known as the Enuma Anu Enlil. These tablets were found in the library of the seventh century Assyrian king Assurbanipal, who ruled Nineveh from 669 - 626 B.C.E.).

The name "Enuma Anu Enlil" comes from the first words of the tablet, and means "When Anu and Enlil".
Anu was a Sumerian sky god, and Enlil was a Sumerian air god.

It is Babylonian astrology that the invading Greeks became so enamoured with by the fifth century B.C.E., that they morphed it in accordance with their own mythologies, and took this knowledge with them when they also invaded Egypt, forever leaving traces of astrology there.

Each time astrology was picked up by a culture and spread, the knowledge and quality of the practice grew and improved. It is from the Greek exposure to the Babylonian astrology that the West gets astrology as we know it today.

How the zodiac and wheel are created

The zodiac wheel is made up of twelve Houses. Picture a circle cast on the ground, divided into twelve sectors. Now imagine yourself at the center of this circle, staring up at the night sky. Imagine the earth as translucent - now you can see all of the stars and constellations in the sky, revolving around you - even the ones behind you and below your place on the earth.

The zodiac as we know it today is derived from ancient Greek and Roman astrology. Their calendar year always began with the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, on or about March 21 every year, when the Sun was in the constellation Aries. Thus, the order of constellations begins with Aries. The next in sequence is Taurus, the constellation of April to May, and so on through the rest of the year.

Glyphs are assigned to represent each of the constellations:

  Aries   (March 21 - April 19)

  Taurus   (April 20 - May 20)

  Gemini   (May 21 - June 21)

  Cancer   (June 22 - July 22)

  Leo   (July 23 - August 22)

  Virgo   (August 23 - September 22)

  Libra   (September 23 - October 22)

  Scorpio   (October 23 - November 21)

  Sagittarius   (November 22 - December 21)

  Capricorn   (December 22 - January 19)

  Aquarius   (January 20 - February 18)

  Pisces   (February 19 - March 20)

Each Sign has what is known as a Ruling Planet assigned to it. The assignations were made by ancient astrologers who had studied the anthropomorphistic traits of the Signs and Planets. Planets were then matched to Signs. This assignation continued as more planets were discovered - the last being Pluto in 1930 (although Pluto is now defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as a dwarf-planet. However, it is still treated as a planet in astrology at this time).

The glyphs for the planets and the signs they rule are as follows:

  Sun - ruling planet of Leo.
  Moon - ruling planet of Cancer.
  Mercury - ruling planet of Gemini and Virgo.
  Venus - ruling planet of Taurus and Libra.
  Mars - ruling planet of Aries.
  Jupiter - ruling planet of Sagittarius.
  Saturn - ruling planet of Capricorn.
  Uranus - ruling planet of Aquarius.
  Neptune - ruling planet of Pisces.
  Pluto - ruling planet of Scorpio.

When the signs and planets are taken together in an astrological wheel, the following is revealed, with the Houses or sectors of the wheel numbered, the planets appearing within the wheel, and the signs appearing on the outer rim of the wheel.

Why the Sun's position so important in astrology

The date when the sun leaves one sign and enters another varies by just a day or two from month to month, occurring sometime between the 20th and 23rd. The astrological sign of those born during the one day when the sun moves into the next sign is determined by the time they were born. For example, people whose birth occurred on April 20th might be Aries, while others born on the very same day will be Taurus if they came into the world after the sun entered the new sign. Those born on or around these dates are often said to be on the cusp, between one sign and the next. People born on a cusp may therefore exhibit traits from the signs on either side of the cusp.

An explanation as to the assignment of personality traits

You might be asking, "Doesn't astrology recognize that we all share the same traits?"
The answer is yes. Astrology reflects the principle that nothing in the universe is at once so simple or so complicated as humans themselves, from the simple human traits inherent in all humans at birth to the complexity of specific personality and behavior patterns of a single individual. Desirable and undesirable characteristics repeat themselves in the individuals of countless generations, appearing only slightly altered by the history of changing circumstances. Specific traits indicated as belonging to one astrological sign does not deny the fact that people born in any of the other eleven signs also possess these traits. What it means is that hundreds of years of recorded astrological observations have shown that certain traits are more prominent in the personality and temperament of those born in one sign than in another. That is the reason, for example, that moodiness becomes a trait associated with one sign or socialability the hallmark of another.

Astrology 101

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Chart analysis provided by Stephanie, Copyright 2002-2008.