The Signs of the Zodiac

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).

Astrology Chart from p. 5 of "Astrology, Plain & Simple"
Astrology Chart from p. 5 of “Astrology, Plain & Simple

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 or  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

Your Totem Animal

by Celia M. Gunn

When some people get to a certain level of spiritual evolution, they reach out and try to make contact with a totem animal. The way to do this varies according to different traditions and beliefs. For instance, some sources claim that the zodiac is the basis for totem animal teachings. In addition, there are different opinions about when we gain or obtain our totem animals, and whether we have only one animal throughout our lives or different animals at different times, perhaps obtaining a new totem animal on a temporary basis during a difficult transition in our lives. Still others believe that we always have a number of totem animals to call upon. As you become more accustomed to the concept and you access your totem animal and begin to familiarize yourself with it through practice and experience, you may find any of these ideas to be true. Don’t feel that you have to live up to what anyone else says, because it is important for you to believe in the concepts that feel right to you and that work for you.

If you are just starting out on this path, it is preferable, I feel, to begin by making contact with only one totem animal; once you have established that relationship, you can branch out if you wish and see what other totem animals want to be part of your life. Whichever way you choose, once you begin this journey, it will become obvious in some way when an animal or bird is trying to catch your attention or show itself in a special way. Keep in mind that all natural things communicate with us.

Think about the way your cat might stare at you so that you know it needs food, or even how your houseplant lets you know that it needs water.

The first thing to be aware of is that you don’t simply choose your totem animal; it’s more accurate to say that you choose each other. It is also important to keep in mind that spiritual guides work in their own way and ti me, not according to any human agenda. Essentially, the first lesson is that openness, willingness, and patience are all you need to connect with your totem animal.

As you attempt to make contact, you should not necessarily accept the first creature that presents itself, especially if it doesn’t feel quite right. It is also essential that you recognize that you may have a hidden, inner desire to connect with a creature that is glamorous or powerful. Because many of us have lost our natural link to nature, the process might be compromised by this kind of wish. Remember that this connection is not about the power or the intelligence of the animal but about what the animal represents, and what is known as the archetypal power behind it that manifests through it, and how that power resonates with you personally.

Every animal has a unique essence and specialty, and it’s important to remember that all forms of life have value and can teach us something. From a spiritual perspective, no animal is more powerful than another. The eagle symbolizes being close to the Creator because it soars high in the heavens and sees everything, while in the European tradition, the tiny wren is known as “King of the Birds,” and legend says that it was the wren that brought fire to humankind.

from p. 18 of Totem Animals, Plain & Simple
from p. 18 of Totem Animals, Plain & Simple

Your relationship with your totem animal is unique and highly personal. Once your totem animal appears in your life, you make a. conscious choice to accept or reject it. Be aware that you are actually making a “soul agreement,” so your fi nest relationship with a totem animal will be with the one that you feel is “right.” Whether you want to share the knowledge of your totem animal with anyone else is entirely up to you. For some, it is a private relationship that is to be treated with the greatest respect and not lightly shared, lest its power become diminished or compromised.

The information about your totem animal may come to you because you have called out for it, as I did, or because you have set your intention and are quiet and receptive. It may appear in a totally unexpected way, although there are four recognized spiritual pathways to come to this kind of perception:

  • If you have strong powers of visualization, you may use clairvoyance, or “clear seeing.” Clairvoyance might actually allow you to see the creature, usually with your eyes closed but sometimes with your eyes open.
  • Clairaudience, or “clear hearing,” may enable you to hear the voice of your totem animal speaking inside your head, yet seeming to come from the outside. Be aware of a critical inner voice that may sound like a parent or teacher. Only accept the voice if what it says is helpful.
  • A gut feeling and sense of your totem animal is known as clairsentience. It might come as a physical sensation or an emotional feeling, or a combination of the two, and it may be associated with an aroma or a scent.
  • Finally, you may find your totem animal through insight or inspiration and just know that it is the one. This experience is known as claircognizance.

You may already be aware of where your greatest strength in these areas of acute perception lies, but if you are not, just spend a moment imagining your favorite place for a vacation. Is your immediate impression something you saw, a sound you heard, a smell you recall, or a thought about a place? Your need to find your primary spiritual pathway, although it is wise not to think you are limited to any one of them. To help you open up to your full potential, your totem animal may choose to appear through any of the others.

Excerpted from Totem Animals, Plain & Simple by Celia M. Gunn


Celia Gunn lived in British Columbia for 18 years studying Native American lore. She now lives in England.