It all started with a new zodiac sign ‘Ophiuchus’, also known as the snake bearer. Twitter was abuzz with rumours of changes in the zodiac and the addition of a new sign. A lot of fuss has been made about this 13th zodiac sign. The fact is Ophiuchus is not a new sign but, something that has existed since ancient times and has even been used by some astrologers as a part of the sidereal zodiac. First, we were told that Pluto is no longer a planet and astrologers should stop considering it as one and now a not-so-welcome suggestion from the astronomers that Ophiuchus be added as a part of the zodiac. It is indeed a fact that the Sun in its transit spends about nineteen days in Ophiuchus but astrologers had decided to have only 12 zodiac signs to maintain the accuracy in their predictions. The 12 zodiac signs constitute the tropical zodiac and this zodiac is based on the Sun’s movement and seasonal changes in the northern hemisphere. Astrologers have known for a long time about the existence of the sidereal and the tropical zodiac and many have chosen to follow the tropical one as it was found to be more accurate. No doubt, we all have traits that can be associated with more than one sign but in the end a talkative Gemini cannot be expected to have much in common with the brooding Taurus personality.
Astronomer Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society caught everyone’s attention when he announced that the signs and the dates of the zodiac and its calendar do not match the path of the sun relative to the stars behind it. Astrologers have shot back and protested the inclusion of a new sign in the zodiac.
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In India, the vedic astrologers are already following the sidereal zodiac but have not included Ophiuchus in the zodiac. Traditional hindu astrology is based on the sidereal system of astrology. Sidereal astrology is based on the position of the Earth relative to the Sun and planets of the solar system and the stars in the celestial sphere. Ophiuchus has sometimes, been used in sidereal astrology as the thirteenth zodiac sign. Since the 1970’s there have been many publications which have suggested that there are indeed 13 zodiac signs as the Sun is in the sign of the Ophiuchus between November 29-December 17. Notable among these are Stephen Schmidt’s Astrology 14 and Walter Berg’s The 13 Signs of the Zodiac (1995).
Ophiuchus is a large constellation with its location around the celestial equator. In Greek it means snake-bearer. In the 2nd century noted astronomer Ptolemy had listed out 48 constellations and Ophiuchus was one of them and today, it is part of the 88 modern constellations. Previously, Ophiuchus was referred to as Serpentarius and is commonly depicted as a man grasping a serpent.