by Cass and Janie Jackson
The astrological signs that begin with Aries and continue through Pisces are known collectively as the signs of the zodiac. These names are derived from groups of stars that we know as constellations. Most of these constellations were thought to represent animals—though you need a vivid imagination to see them in the night sky—hence the names: Aries, the ram, Taurus, the bull, Cancer, the crab, and so on. The Greeks called these constellations zodiakos kyklos—“circles of animals”—which translated into the English word “zodiac.” The table on page 5 lists all the zodiacal signs in order, and their corresponding animal or symbol.
Imagine standing on top of the world, able to see the sky all round you. The zodiac would form a belt around you, with the constellations in the order in which they are normally encountered—Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and so on around to Pisces, which completes the circle.
The ancients realized that the Sun, as it traversed the sky, passed through every zodiac sign each year, before starting its round again. Records were made of the dates on which the Sun passed from one constellation to the next. Although they vary by a few days each year, the dates for each sign are typically as shown in the table on page 5 (included below).
This divided the year up very nicely into twelve almost equal sections. The astrological year always starts with Aries, which begins around March 21, the spring equinox—a time when the days and nights are of equal length. This was also the start of the ancient Roman calendar, and while other calendars have come and gone, this one has stuck fast, as far as astrology is concerned.
Imagine that you are again standing on top of the earth, with the zodiac slowly moving around you. You are standing at the center of a disc, of which the zodiac forms the border. Dotted about on this disc are the planets that also appear to be revolving round the earth.
From our point of view on earth, the Sun appears to pass through each zodiac sign during the course of the year. This orbit is so regular that anyone can find their Sun sign by looking at their horoscope in the newspaper, or at the dates listed in the table on page 5. Although this works well for most people, the Sun doesn’t change sign at exactly the same time or even on the same day of each year. This means that those who were born on the cusp (that is to say, on the border) of two Sun signs might not be sure which sign is truly theirs
Astrologers also use the Moon and the planets of the solar system in their studies. A Moon sign will show your inner, emotional nature. (You will be able to find the position of your Moon on the day of your birth in chapter 6.) The planets represent the cosmic energies that influence your basic character. Depending on the time you were born, the planets occupy different zodiac signs in your astrological chart and thus affect your personality. We will go into more detail about the planets in chapter 4.
The rising sign (also known as the ascendant), is the sign of the zodiac that was rising above the horizon at your time of birth. It is another very important factor since it says something about how other people perceive you. The rising sign is connected to the time of day you were born. All twelve zodiac signs will rise during the course of 24 hours. Unfortunately, they are not broken into nice, neat 2-hour blocks of time. Don’t worry: this book will help you find your rising sign in chapter 5!
At some point you will probably want a professional astrological chart made that lists every feature with absolute accuracy. Check out websites such as http://www.sashafenton.com or www.astro.com to find out how you can obtain a free horoscope and how to buy extremely inexpensive astrology software. In addition, you may want to visit your local astrologer. He or she will be able to point out more complex features in your chart, as well as help you understand what is going on in your life at a particular time.
Excerpted from Astrology, Plain and Simple by Cass and Janie Jackson
Cass and Janie Jackson first met through a writers’ correspondence course. Their similar interests acted like a magnet and they immediately became inseparable. They have taught live classes using their own inimitable tandem teaching style, as well as teaching correspondence courses. Between them, they have written over a dozen books on various aspects of alternative medicine, but their personal interest has always been in astrology. They’ve contributed to many magazines over the years and Janie has written a couple of novels. They are both now officially retired, but like all true writers, they never stop writing