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Actually, Zodiac Signs Always Change and We’ve Always Known This

My friend called me last night and while we were discussing (what else?) Minecraft, she interjected with excitement, informing me about some crazy thing where everyone’s Zodiac signs are now different. I’m not a Taurus anymore, apparently I’m an Aries. I don’t care about astrology so much, but thought it was kind of weird that I now have to tell people who do care something different. It’s kind of like when you write dates after the New Year and keep messing up the year for a couple of months: Weird, but whatever, you get over it. I did, however, have fun for five minutes thinking, “I AM NOW ARIES, GOD OF WAR.” This new astrological sign reassignment took the Internet by storm and everyone thought this was some crazy new thing. It’s not, if you were wondering. Humans have apparently known about this all along. Allow us to explain.

Before we get to the simple answer of why the Internet freaked out, exactly what the Internet freaked out about should be explained, which also happens to be quite simple. The Zodiac is the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the sun as it is projected in the sky, with said projection being called the ecliptic. The Zodiac signs are supposed to be the twelve constellations that happen to cross the line that is the ecliptic. Each sign’s period of time is defined by when the sun appears to be “in” a constellation. Thing is, there are more than twelve constellations that cross the ecliptic. Say hi to Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, the thirteenth constellation that crosses the ecliptic. Poor guy doesn’t count as a sign and he even occupies more of the ecliptic than his Zodiac buddy Scorpius. Some popular theories behind why Scorpius counts and Ophiuchus doesn’t are because Scorpius is much brighter, thus easier to see, coupled with the fact that twelve constellations correspond better to twelve months than thirteen constellations would. Essentially, Ophiuchus doesn’t count because he’s inconvenient.

(Fun side note: In the days of Undefinable Yore when astronomers defined the ecliptic’s boundaries, Scorpius actually fit into it better than Ophiuchus, but in modern times, Ophiuchus fits much better. And I know, I know: If they can change the signs’ dates and give everyone new signs, they could surely finagle the dates to include Ophiuchus.)

So! That simple part about why everyone’s astrological signs changed? Because the Earth wobbles on its axis over time, changing its position, thus changing where the stars appear to be in our sky. This is something that you already knew, but like the rest of us who aren’t astronomers, didn’t make the connection to the astrological implications, probably because you aren’t one to think you’re going to win the lottery based on–quite literally–how the stars align.

The funny thing is, people don’t really need to change their horoscopes or signs. The dates of when the sun is “in” a certain constellation have always been changing because the Earth always wobbles. Why don’t you remember hearing about the dates for the signs changing before, then, you ask? That’s because astrology is astrology, and adheres more to faith and beliefs than science. The signs haven’t constantly changed based on the dates the sun is “in” their constellations because they don’t need to for astrology to “work.” Astrology was based on the sun being “in” the constellations, but astrology broke off from the actual provable-with-facts science bit long ago and became its own thing. Words do this, too; over the course of time, they take on new meanings that the word didn’t encompass back when it was invented. Six-pack used to mean a pack of six, now it also refers to sexy abs. Heck, this even applies to niche terms, such as “gank,” which at one point meant to steal, but now also means to ambush.

That simple part about why everyone freaked out and news of changing Zodiac signs swept across the Internet? Because it’s the Internet, man. An article was posted on the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which featured an astronomer with one of the most fun names ever, Parke Kunkle, basically badmouthing astrology, and also using Ophiuchus as proof. He mentioned that dates of Zodiac signs have always shifted, because, again, the Earth wobbles, changing how the sky looks. Partly because of the social media times in which we live, and partly from experiencing random luck (like most things that explode across the Internet experience), the article got picked up on various outlets and the news trended across Twitter, and was twisted around a bit to say how the Zodiac signs are now different and nothing will ever be the same.

So, to join in on the Internet’s newest hot topic, we have our own theory to add to the fold. Final Fantasy Tactics is about stones that correspond to the Zodiac signs, called Zodiac Stones, pictured above. There is a summon in the game called Carbuncle, which sounds suspiciously similar to Parke Kunkle, the astronomer who inadvertently started this whole trend. Carbuncle casts Reflection on the players’ characters and allies. The moon, which plays a part in the Earth’s wobble and orbit, reflects the light of the sun, which dictates what Zodiac sign is when based on when it is “inside” a constellation. All the signs are clear. I think it’s pretty obvious that Parke Kunkle is Carbuncle. Go nuts with that, Internet.

(h/t Bad Astronomy)

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