A few days ago I met a girl and the first thing she asked me was my zodiac sign and horoscope, instead of my name. In our day and age, most of us know our zodiac sign based on our date of birth, because discussing it has become part of our daily life. We go on websites that analyse our astrological chart and other placements and this information supposedly shapes our personalities. However, no one has ever told us where zodiac signs come from or who is responsible for relating these specific constellations to people’s personality traits .
People have turned to the stars for answers dating back to ancient civilisations; they believed in, and were influenced by the power of nature, because science’s development was at an early stage. For example, travelers used constellations and the moon as a compass to guide them, whereas the stars were part of the mystical nature of the time. Astronomy was astrology’s counterpart in many of these primitive societies, but the latter’s consideration as a science has long been debunked.
Around 450 BCE, the Babylonians and Sumerians, divided the Earth’s orbit around the Sun into 12 equal parts, each one representing a different constellation, meaning a different sign. Each part contains 30 degrees of the so-called “zodiac belt”, but in reality these constellations are not perfectly equal. The names given to them had many similarities to the zodiac signs we have today, but their contemporary names come from Ancient Greece. These were developed around the time Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and Ancient Greeks depicted Egyptian and Babylonian cultural influences.
The word zodiac derives from the Ancient Greek “zōdiakos kyklos” which means circle of the animals, since most of the zodiac signs are depicted by an animal. As for the names of each sign, they come from the constellation they represent in the sky and are matched with a specific date. For those that don’t know, there are 12 zodiac signs – Aries (March 21-April 19), Taurus (April 20-May 20), Gemini (May 21-June 20), Cancer (June 21-July 22), Leo (July 23-Aug. 22), Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22), Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22), Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21), Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21), Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19), Aquarius (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18) and Pisces (Feb. 19 to March 20). The mainstream symbols of each sign are likely to have been developed in the Middle Ages, but that has not been historically confirmed, and the relationship between zodiac signs and personality traits remains a mystery. Still there has been an increase in astrology’s popularity among young people, especially in the Western World.
Checking the daily horoscope has become part of our routine, whether that includes making jokes or initiating serious conversations about it. Despite astrology’s unreliability and our lack of awareness of the stars’ effect on human behavior, it retains its following. Reading everyday horoscope predictions remains a form of escapism, adding fun and excitement to our lives.
Written by Despina Zacharopoulou
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